NHS doctors fear openness; want secrecy
A doctors’ leader has criticised plans disclosed in the Budget to publish the details of prescriptions dispensed by individual GP practices. Dr Clare Gerada, chairman of the Royal College of General Practitioners, said the proposal could breach confidentiality by identifying patients in some areas who take medication for rare conditions.
She also said the raw data would be meaningless as it would only list the number and type of drugs given out by each surgery, and not the number or type of people who live in the area.
Her comments came after The Daily Telegraph disclosed a little-noticed section of HM Treasury’s Plan for Growth, which said that detailed prescription data could be made public for the first time in order to open up information and improve clinical research.
Details of the 900million prescriptions dispensed each year in England are collected in order to reimburse doctors and chemists, but currently only certain NHS managers can view the data at the level of individual GP practices.
Making “practice level” details public, even if the names of the surgeries and patients were deleted, had been ruled out just two years ago by the NHS Information Centre as it could be cross-checked with other information to identify individuals in remote areas or those with rare conditions. It was also feared that the proposal would lead to doctors being “targeted” by pressure groups and drug firms.
Asked about the plan at a Westminster Health Forum meeting on Thursday, Dr Gerada said: “We get our data annually right down to GP level but I wouldn’t propose making that data widely public. “It is identifiable, certainly with very rare medication and it is meaningless unless you understand the context it’s made in.”
The Department of Health has said that the data will only be published subject to a new evaluation by the NHS Information Centre.
Fury at British equality watchdog after it calls for teachers to ask 11-year-olds if they are gay
Children as young as 11 could soon be asked about their sexuality without their parents’ consent, it emerged yesterday. Teachers, nurses and youth workers are being urged to set up pilot studies aimed at monitoring adolescent sexual orientation for the first time.
A report commissioned by the Government’s equalities watchdog found that it was ‘practically and ethically’ possible to interview young children about their sexuality. Controversially, it says parental consent, while ‘considered good practice’, is not a legal necessity.
The report for the much-criticised Equality and Human Rights Commission recommends that children should be asked if they are gay from the age of 11. A record should be kept of those unsure or ‘questioning’ their sexuality.
It says monitoring sexual orientation among youngsters could help to prevent them from becoming victims of discrimination, and claims that ‘some young people begin to question their sexual orientation as early as age eight and may begin to identify as LGB (lesbian, gay, bisexual) from early adolescence’.
The report has provoked outrage. Graham Stuart, Tory chairman of the Commons education select committee, said the plans were ‘invasive, sinister and threatening’. He added: ‘School should be a place of safety, not a place where pupils are picked over for the purpose of some quango; and many children won’t understand what they are talking about.’
The report – Researching and Monitoring Adolescence and Sexual Orientation: Asking the Right Questions, at the Right Time – says it is ‘critical’ to track children’s sexuality to ‘shed light on the complexities of young people’s developing sexual orientation and how this may disadvantage them’.
It tell researchers not to dismiss gay feelings of interviewees as ‘a passing phase’.
Some youngsters, it says, may use categories such as ‘questioning’, ‘queer’, ‘pansexual’, ‘genderqueer’, ‘asexual’, ‘pan-romantic’ and even ‘trisexual’.
Last night, a commission spokesman said: ‘This is independent research produced to help the commission form its policy direction.’
Under the Cloak of ‘Climate Change’ childhoods are being sacrificed for political gain
‘When asked to choose the 3 biggest threats to the world from a list of 9, the most common answer is terrorism, chosen by more than half (59%), followed by climate change (49%).’ — Extract from the results of a BBC survey of some 329 schools, with 24,000 respondents aged 11 to 16 years, published 24 March, 2011
So, if the survey has been well-conducted, approximately half of secondary-school children in the UK regard ‘climate change’ as one of the biggest threats facing the world. How can that be, given that nothing at all unusual has happened to any weather phenomena, including air temperatures, rainfall, storminess etc, and nor to commonly associated phenomena such as polar ice extents?
The answer, of course, is clear enough: very successful lobbying and publicising of the results of computer models programmed to give CO2 a large effect as a driver of climate using positive feedbacks. Given that CO2 levels have been rising, and are confidently expected to rise further, there is clearly the makings of a good scare story here.
However, neither the atmosphere itself nor many leading climate scientists, have been sufficiently convinced by these stories to, in the case of the atmosphere, display unusual behaviour, and in the case of the scientists, display alarm. Yet many others are alarmed, or find it convenient to act as if they are for the sake of political and other advantages. Finance houses, political parties, environmentalists, and development organisations have all seen substantial boosts to their incomes and/or their influence thanks to the widespread publicity given to such as the IPCC.
Many well-intentioned individuals and groups have no doubt been persuaded to ‘do something’ by all of this, and are even trying to get schoolchildren involved in political actions.
One such group is Norwich Education and Action for Development (NEAD), whose Windmill Project was reported upon this week in the Norwich Evening News
The headline, and the activities described look innocent enough. Since our climate has always changed and is no doubt still changing, children should be taught about it as part of their nature or geography or science studies. Who would not want that? The changes however are quite slow and hard to detect amidst the within-year variation, and so it is unlikely that this topic ought to be a major part of any curriculum for such a young age group. The problem though is that they may be being misled about climate risks, and that these in turn may be scaring them, and leading them into political roles which seem utterly unsuited to their tender years. On the NEAD site, one can find phrases such as this one:
‘Most importantly, children are offered information about some of the solutions to problems related to climate change. This will give children the power to make informed decisions and allow them to move towards behavioural and attitudinal change.’
Primary school children have been visited by this group in the past. Although their teaching materials are not available to non-members on their site, my concerns that they may be the usual alarmist stuff are not allayed by listening to this song sung and partly composed by children at a NEAD event at a school in October last year:
‘The Norfolk Flood Blues’
It is quite hard to make out all the words, but it seems to begin with stamping of feet in time to the music, while chanting
‘Rain Flood Rain Flood Rain Flood Rain Flood …’
Later on, I think I heard these phrases (please email corrections or confirmations about these!):
‘Water in my home, Water in my bed’
‘It’s destroying everything’
‘I feel doomed. I feel scared.’
I looked up the UK Met Office site to see what weather records I could find for East Anglia, the region in which Norwich lies. Records were available for Lowestoft, a coastal town less than 20 miles from Norwich. I extracted monthly rainfall, monthly sunshine hours, and monthly mean maximum and mean minimum temperature values for the 30 years 1980 to 2010, and used these to produce the plots shown below. Can you see any grounds for alarm in them?
The pupils will have some difficulty in discerning ‘climate change’ in such a display, dominated as it is by within-year variation. Throughout this period, CO2 levels grew, along with increasingly agitated pleas and warnings from people who ought to have known better, such as James Hansen who in 1986 was warning of mean global temperature rises of several degrees by the year 2010. Since the computer models suggest the temperature rises will be greater away from the equatorial regions towards the poles, a naive observer might well have expected more action in the Lowestoft data by now. Could it be that the models are also useless for predicting such things?
Mercifully, the NEAD people do not seem deranged like those who produced the film ‘No Pressure’, whereby children of non-compliant parents were portrayed as being violently destroyed, ‘pour encourager les autres’. I suspect that NEAD attracts many good people, but people who have been misled by the IPCC, and by others. There are further grounds for concern about NEAD: first, is it really a charity, second, is it at risk of crossing the line re political indoctrination in schools, and third, will campaigning around climate change really help the world’s poor in the long run?
British racism still thriving
Middle-class youngsters barred from applying for internships at Whitehall and in the police… because they are white
White middle-class students have been banned from applying for internships with Britain’s biggest police force and in Whitehall. The temporary jobs, which offer thousands of pounds for work in the summer, are billed as the internships ‘that could change your life’. They provide students with invaluable work experience at a time of soaring graduate unemployment.
But critics yesterday told of their anger at the decision by the Civil Service and the Metropolitan Police to exclude all but certain ethnic minorities from applying. They say the schemes cause resentment among staff and are discriminating against white people ‘via the back door’.
The Metropolitan Police, which employs more than 50,000 people, publicly offers only one work experience programme. The 12-week Diversity Internship will pay six interns more than £3,000 to work in a range of departments. While there is no guarantee of a post at the end, it gives students a head start in the battle for police jobs.
But the application form says only students from specific ethnic groups – including black African, black Asian or Chinese – can apply. Applicants are also quizzed about religious beliefs and sexuality. The force offers a few other work experience places to students from specific colleges.
The Civil Service also has only one central internship programme – marketed as ‘two months that could change your life’ – and also specifically for students from ethnic minorities. The only white candidates eligible to apply for the Fast Stream Summer Diversity Internship are those whose families are from ‘under-represented socio-economic backgrounds’. Others can get occasional work experience through individual departments.
The scheme, paying about £3,000, is a clear route to the prestigious Civil Service Fast Stream graduate programme.
MPs, campaigners and police are furious that prominent public bodies are discriminating against white, middle-class students by denying them the chance to apply.
Tory MP Dominic Raab last night said: ‘We won’t end discrimination by introducing it via the back door. That is precisely what positive discrimination like this does.’
Nadhim Zahawi, a Tory MP who identifies himself as Kurdish, said: ‘These schemes are degrading. Margaret Thatcher didn’t need positive discrimination to become prime minister.’
One Met inspector said: ‘At a time when people in the Met are being offered voluntary redundancy, the Met funds such schemes. Such incentives can only fan the flames of racial division.’
The British disability benefit that’s handed out to addicts and alcoholics
A disability benefit for those who cannot walk or get around properly is being given to tens of thousands of claimants with drug and alcohol problems.
Ministers say official figures revealing a startling range of conditions for which people claim the mobility component of Disability Living Allowance demonstrate the need for urgent reform.
Department for Work and Pensions figures show more than £435million is currently paid to 19,400 people with drug or alcohol problems, 30,900 with asthma and 128,300 with ‘unspecified’ back pain.
Playing around: Valerie Lewis was given a suspended prison sentence
Valerie Lewis received more than £40,000 in Disability Living Allowance, claiming she suffered back pain that meant she could barely walk.
But the mother-of-two played four nine or 18-hole rounds of golf a week and was lady captain of her local club.
The 55-year-old first claimed the disability benefit in 2001, insisting she had difficulty walking more than 7ft, getting dressed and even cutting up food or tying her shoelaces.
Fraud investigators filmed her teeing off at Sutton Hall Golf Club near Runcorn, Cheshire, loading her golf buggy, lifting clubs in and out of her car and walking ‘five or six miles’.
She was filmed at the 6,000-yard course in November 2008 after investigators received a tip-off that she was ‘fitter than stated’.
Lewis was further implicated by her own diary, which revealed she had played in a golf competition on the day of her very first disability assessment and rode a horse the day after.
In January she escaped jail after admitting failing to inform the Department for Work and Pensions about changes to her circumstances.
At Warrington Crown Court, Lewis, from Runcorn, was given a sentence of 24 weeks in prison, suspended for two years, and 200 hours of community service.
And the number on DLA has risen from 2.5million in 2003 to nearly 3.2million.
There is increasing political controversy over Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith’s pledge to slash £2.17billion from the vast annual bill for DLA by 2015. Ministers say half of those being paid the benefit have never been asked for any evidence to support their claim beyond what they filled in on a form.
A Government analysis of DLA claims – which now cost the taxpayer £12billion a year – also shows nearly a million have been on the benefit for 14 years or more.
But cuts to DLA, which was designed to help those who have specific mobility or care needs, and cannot do things like walk or wash and dress themselves, are increasingly being criticised by charities and opposition MPs. The benefit is paid at different rates, with those with the most severe difficulty walking getting the higher rate of £49.85 a week.
Ministers say reforms will introduce face-to-face assessments to make sure the benefit is going to those with the greatest need. DLA will be replaced by a Personal Independence Payment and remain a non-means tested, non-taxable cash benefit claimed by the disabled whether they are in or out of work.
The Government also wants all claimants to undergo medical tests to justify payments. One source close to the reforms said: ‘At the moment someone with back pain could get £50 a week DLA mobility by simply filling out a paper-based assessment. ‘The new assessment will help to make sure the support goes where it is needed the most and that the benefit remains accurate.’
Labour councillor Neil Coyle, of the Disability Alliance, which represents 250 disability charities, said face-to-face tests would cost £675million. ‘If people are retested regularly it would be a significant waste of public money,’ he added. ‘The Conservatives pledged in their 2010 manifesto that they would protect DLA and now we are seeing a £2billion cut.’
Last week David Cameron dismissed protests from Labour leader Ed Miliband that 80,000 care home residents would be stripped of the mobility component of DLA. The Prime Minister said it would be included within the new Personal Independence Payment.
Business Secretary Vince Cable confirmed yesterday that some of his fellow LibDems are fighting separate plans to cap benefits at £500 a week per family, though he said he supported the policy.
Critics say a cap will hit families in areas where the cost of housing is highest.
Unease as British Labour leader ranks protest marchers alongside suffragettes
Ed Miliband was under fire last night for addressing Saturday’s march and comparing the protesters’ cause to that of the suffragettes, and the anti-apartheid and U.S. civil rights movements.
Some in Labour’s high command warned privately in advance that Mr Miliband should not associate himself in any way with the event, since it was bound to end in violence.
Yesterday Peter Hain, one of the Labour leader’s closest shadow Cabinet allies, remained defiant, insisting the march had been ‘joyous’. But there is deep unease among other senior Labour figures about Mr Miliband’s decision to ally himself so closely with the march.
Blairite MPs were alarmed at his claim to be ‘standing on the shoulders’ of some of history’s greatest movements in attacking spending cuts that, in truth, are only slightly deeper than those planned by Labour.
Mr Miliband told the crowd in Hyde Park: ‘We come in the tradition of those who have marched before us: The suffragettes, who fought for votes for women and won, the civil rights movement in America, who fought for equality and won, and the anti-apartheid movement, who fought the horror of that system and won.
‘Our cause may be different, but we come together today to realise our voice, and we stand on their shoulders. We stand on the shoulders of those who have marched and struggled in the past. Our struggle is to fight to preserve, protect and defend the things that we value.’
David Davis, the former Conservative leadership candidate, described Mr Miliband’s comparison as an ‘extraordinary error of judgment’. ‘I suspect the brave people of the civil rights movement will be shocked to hear the Labour leader undertake such hyperbole as to compare a march like this to the sort of heroic acts they had to undertake to win fundamental rights,’ he said.
Harriett Baldwin, Tory MP for West Worcestershire, said: ‘Instead of apologising for maxing out the country’s credit card or spelling out where Labour’s cuts would fall, Ed Miliband compared himself to some of the giants of history. ‘His self-important comments are an insult to those who risked and gave their lives in the fight for equality.’
Why we really, really, don’t want planning of the food market: “It isn’t just that planners will, as we’ve seen, fail to recognise efficiencies in what is already produced. It’s also that they can have absolutely no idea whatsoever of what we might start to produce. Chocolate covered pickles are always going to be a minority taste of course (although they sound worth trying: choccie and salt, or if vinegar pickled, sweet and sour, worth a nibble at least) but take a step up to pickles themselves. You can draw a line through Europe. To the east and north, they are normally salt pickles, in brine. To the west and south in vinegar. With the new movements of people of the past decade, those hundreds of thousands from the east moving west, how should production of pickles change?”
There is a new lot of postings by Chris Brand just up — on his usual vastly “incorrect” themes of race, genes, IQ etc.