Half of axed NHS posts will be doctors and nurses

Clerks and “administrators” are FAR too important to fire. Like cockroaches, the NHS bureaucracy would survive a nuclear winter

More than half of the NHS posts being axed in spending cuts are those of doctors, nurses and midwives, it has emerged. The Royal College of Nursing has warned that hospital wards are becoming unsafe as there are just not enough frontline workers to look after patients or prevent the spread of infection.

There are also fears that nurses are so overworked they are unable to carry out their most basic duties of care such attending to the needs of the vulnerable elderly.

The latest estimates suggest that at least 40,000 posts at hospitals and health trusts will be lost over the next four years as the NHS tries to make billions of pounds of efficiency savings.

New figures published by RCN ahead of its annual conference in Liverpool show that 46 per cent of these are nursing posts. A further 8 per cent involve doctors, midwives and other clinicians – meaning 54 per cent of posts cut are frontline workers.

These findings sharply contradict the Government’s claim that any job losses in the NHS will involve bureacrats and backroom staff– so patient safety will not be affected.

But morale amongst nurses is currently at an all time low and many feel they are being prevented from doing their jobs as they are being “stretched to the limit.”

There is also mounting concern over the Government’s controversial health reforms – the brainchild of Health Secretary Andrew Lansley – which will see GP’s take control of up to £60 billion of the NHS budget.

Nurses say they have been cut-out of these plans -and they are also worried the reforms are being brought in far too quickly, at a time when the NHS is under huge financial strain.

Although Mr Lansley is due to attend the conference he will not be giving a speech. It will be the first time in eight years that the health secretary or Prime Mister has not given an addressed to the nurses. Officials strongly deny the Mr Lansley has stepped aside to avoid being heckled by angry nurses – a fate met by former Labour health secretary Patricia Hewitt at the same conference in 2006.

Dr Peter Carter, general secretary of the RCN, last night warned that reforming the health service during a time of severe financial strain was a “recipe for instability”. He said that the cuts would have “catastrophic consequences” for patient safety and care, and could lead to increasing waiting lists and the return of deadly superbugs MRSA and C Diff.

“Cutting thousands of frontline doctors and nurses could have a catastrophic impact on patient safety and care. “It’s a myth that the NHS has been protected. People can play with figures as much as they like, these figures are real.”

The figures for the proportion of frontline posts being cut were obtained from an in-depth analysis of 21 trusts in England. Most of the posts are being gradually cut through natural wastage – such as people not being replaced when they leave or retire – rather than actual redundancies.

But morale of NHS staff is also low as most have been forced to accept a two-year pay freeze, which is effectively a pay cut once inflation has been taken into account.


British School leavers unfit for work: ‘Firms forced to spend billions on remedial training for victims of education failure’

Firms are spending billions on remedial training for school leavers who are not capable of work, a business leader said yesterday. In a scathing attack on Labour’s legacy, he said the youngsters are the victims of an ‘education failure’, and called for the urgent return of grammar schools.

The comments by David Frost, the outgoing director general of the British Chambers of Commerce, came on the day teachers at one secondary school went on strike in protest over their uncontrollable pupils. At another, a headmistress exasperated with slovenly standards of behaviour and continual fiddling with electronic gadgets, handed out more than 700 detentions in four days. Both cases highlight a crisis in discipline which many believe has contributed to a drop in attainment by many children.

Mr Frost, who speaks for more than 100,000 British businesses, told the BCC annual conference in London: ‘Despite the billions that have been spent over the last decade, business relentlessly bemoans the lack of skills available. ‘What they are really describing is a failure of the education system. ‘A system where half of all kids fail to get five decent GCSEs simply means that five years later we spend billions offering them remedial training to make them work-ready.’

Mr Frost made an unashamed call for the return of grammars to improve social mobility by giving youngsters from poorer backgrounds greater opportunities. Earlier this week, ministers led by Nick Clegg published their strategy to close the gap between rich and poor, but there was no mention of expanding selective education.

Mr Frost suggested this was a mistake, although he backed the Government’s creation of more technical schools. He said: ‘If we really want to focus on social mobility rather than just internships why not re-introduce grammar schools? ‘They provided the escape route for bright working class children. I appear to be a lone voice on this subject, and find little support. ‘But high quality state academic education coupled with high quality vocational education would, I believe, make a major contribution to the future economic performance of the UK.’

Mr Frost joins the growing ranks of business leaders to attack Labour’s record on education. Former Tesco boss Sir Terry Leahy described school standards as ‘woeful’ in 2009. His comments were echoed in the same year by former Marks & Spencer chief Sir Stuart Rose, who said many school leavers were not ‘fit for work’.

Despite a doubling of spending on education since 2000, from £35.8billion to £71billion, Britain has plummeted down world rankings, according to the respected Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.

During this period the UK slipped from eighth to 28th in maths, from seventh to 25th in reading and from fourth to 16th in science. It is now behind relatively poor nations such as Estonia, Poland and Slovakia. Disturbingly, the study found that a fifth of 15-year-olds are ‘functionally illiterate’.

Under Labour there was a 3,800 per cent increase in uptake of non-academic GCSE-equivalent courses. In 2005 15,000 were taken. This soared to 575,000 last year.

Education Secretary Michael Gove has signalled that he will scrap the most pointless vocational courses and is encouraging schools to concentrate on the teaching of core subjects including English, maths, science, modern languages, history and geography.


British headmistress who gave out 717 detentions in four days evokes fury of parents who say ‘it’s not a prison’

A headmistress who introduced a ‘zero-tolerance policy’ to improve standards in her school has handed out 717 detentions in four days. Catherine Jenkinson-Dix has won the support of many parents after deciding to punish misdemeanours including smoking, chewing gum, eating between lessons, carrying mobile phones, applying excessive make-up and insubordination.

A strict uniform policy was also announced under which individualistic touches such as odd socks or wearing hoodies in class would be banned. Anyone breaking the rules would be sent immediately to the school hall for five hours where they would have to read a booklet about good behaviour.

On Monday, the first day of the policy, 236 children – a fifth of pupils at City of Ely Community College in Cambridgeshire – were punished. On Tuesday the figure was 186, on Wednesday it was 180 and yesterday it was 115.

Supporters of the regime say the diminishing figures prove it is working. But the crackdown has divided parents, with some calling it draconian and others saying that old-fashioned discipline will be reflected in academic achievement.

Sophie Martin, 38, backed the school despite her son Jack, 14, being given a detention on Monday for talking when he was meant to be reading a book. She said: ‘He learned not to do it again and he hasn’t been back since. ‘The number of children in the hall has been going down every day so it proves it is working. ‘Teenagers need guidelines and they always push the boundaries. If they know what the guidelines are they behave themselves.’

A parent of a 15-year-old boy said: ‘There are plenty who agree with what the school is doing. ‘Yes, the children that get detentions miss classes, but my son said that after several hours bored out of their skulls with nothing to do most of them actually want to be back in class. I think it’s a stroke of genius.’

However, florist Amanda King, 34, took her children, Ben, 12, and Shannon, 14, out of classes on Wednesday and is now looking for a new school. She said her son had been given a detention for arriving late to a French lesson. ‘I’m absolutely appalled. They are wrecking pupils’ education and turning it into a prison,’ she said. ‘Staff are nit-picking over everything – for behaviour, for what they wear.’

Ruth Hanslip, 47, has stopped sending her daughter Karris, 13, to the school after she was punished on three consecutive days for laughing, wearing a bracelet and carrying a mobile phone. She said: ‘We’d both had enough. They don’t give them any work to do and my daughter is now missing out on her school work.’ Karris said: ‘They gave me a little book to read but the rest of the time I was just sat staring at the wall.’

A letter to parents announcing the 14-point zero-tolerance policy said that any pupil who misbehaved would have to sit in the hall and read a booklet called Right To Teach, Right To Learn, which lists the rules. Those who played up in detention would be moved to an ‘isolation unit’, a room away from other children. The rules were drafted after a ‘minority’ of pupils failed to meet ‘basic expectations’.

Mrs Jenkinson-Dix, who was appointed in 2009, said: ‘Low-level issues, such as using mobile phones, affect staff’s ability to teach pupils and also affect those pupils who are trying to learn. If we can eradicate these, all students will be able to receive the best possible education. I am pleased to say I have the support of the majority of parents. ‘Any pupil who is removed from class is removed for a good reason and this is fundamental in preparing pupils for their future careers.’

Governor Ben Gibbs said: ‘Teachers are saying they are getting through their lesson plans quicker and we have feedback from students effectively saying how much better the lessons are.’


“A fool and his money are soon parted”

Walk into any of the 200 or so branches of Pret A Manger across the country [Britain] and you’re bombarded with messages about the chain’s commitment to providing fresh, natural food. ‘Pioneering natural foods since 1986,’ screams one sign on the sandwich shelves. ‘Just made in this shop’s kitchen, never from a factory,’ says another.

The Pret hot wraps are ‘fresh from the oven, naturally’, while the crisps, popcorn and cakes are ‘100 per cent natural’.
Pret’s website claims its shops cook freshly-made preservative-free food using natural ingredients

Pret’s website claims its shops cook freshly-made preservative-free food using natural ingredients

It’s a great sell to the metropolitan, middle-class, professional crowd that cram into Pret each day for the irrefutably delicious sandwiches, salads and snacks that have helped the chain’s profits soar by 37 per cent this year to a massive £46 million.

This is because we care about how our food is made, where it comes from and what’s in it, don’t we? And Pret has got it just right — hasn’t it?

On the Pret website it talks of kitchens in every shop where the food is freshly made daily using preservative-free, natural ingredients and avoiding ‘obscure chemicals’.

Pret might not actually use the word ‘healthy’ in any of its marketing material — it’s all worded very, very carefully — but for most people, words such as ‘fresh’, ‘natural’ and ‘preservative-free’ go hand-in-hand with healthy eating.
It’s a great sell to the metropolitan middle-class crowd that go there for lunch every day

It’s a great sell to the metropolitan middle-class crowd that go there for lunch every day

So you’d be forgiven, perhaps, for thinking two things. First, that the food is made from quality, constituent ingredients on site, rather than from pre-prepared fillings in tubs or soups in cartons, for instance. And, secondly, that the food is all healthy and you can eat it guilt-free.

Sadly, you’d be wrong on both counts.

Last month the Mail revealed that Pret’s tomato soup contains, in one small pot, 4.5g of salt. That’s the same as the amount in nine packets of crisps. And when you consider that the recommended daily allowance for salt is 6g a day, you can see that 4.5g is a frighteningly high figure.

Although there are many healthy options on the menu, the soup is not the only Pret product with worrying credentials on the healthy-eating front.

Take the Posh Cheddar & Pickle Baguette. It contains almost 800 calories and 15.6g of saturated fat — that’s about the same as a Pizza Express American Pizza (the individual-sized one from a supermarket) and not dissimilar to a Big Mac and medium fries.
The ham, cheese and mustard toastie has almost the full recommended daily allowance that a woman should eat

The ham, cheese and mustard toastie has almost the full recommended daily allowance that a woman should eat

Then there’s the Hoisin Duck Wrap, which contains the equivalent of three teaspoons of sugar — making it higher in sugar than one of Pret’s own milk chocolate bars. And take a look at the Ham, Cheese & Mustard Toastie. It has 696 calories and 18g of saturated fat — almost the full 20g amount a woman is advised to eat in a day —and 4.25g of salt. Eek!

There seems to be mayonnaise in almost every single sandwich, even the Hoisin Duck Wrap (er, why?), the Posh Cheddar & Pickle Baguette, and the Wiltshire-cured Ham & Pickle sandwich. Is that dollop of extra fat and calories really necessary?

As nutritionist Angela Dowden says: ‘Freshly-made and with no additives is to be applauded, and Pret is undoubtedly good at that. But “fresh” and “natural” isn’t synonymous with “good for you”.

‘When you’re eating something that has as many calories and as much saturated fat as a burger and chips, the fact that it may have a few more vitamins doesn’t make it any less fattening and artery-clogging than the fast food.’

Pret’s spokesman told us: ‘While Pret is, of course, compliant with current Food Standards Agency guidelines, we are aware of public concern about salt.

‘We continue to explore with our chefs how we can reduce salt levels without sacrificing taste. Pret is one of the few High Street retailers that gives customers calorie and fat information on the shelves and through its website so they can make an informed choice.’ It hardly sounds like the chain is desperate to change things.

Meanwhile, its response to public criticism on its website seems arrogant at the very least, and perhaps closer, even, to irresponsible.

‘Often, the media gets hung up on calories and fat,’ it says. ‘Of course, these have to be checked and regulated, but they should also be balanced with a factor that seems to get forgotten in today’s fat-obsessed environment: nutrition. We talk about salt, sugar and fat, but never anything else.’

Yes, Pret sandwiches tend to be high in protein and certain vitamins and minerals. But, as Angela Dowden points out, they may not have as many positive attributes as you would imagine.

‘Rocket, herbs and other “posh” leaves give an illusion of health properties,’ she says. ‘But you’d still not be getting even one vegetable portion in your average Pret sandwich, wrap or baguette.’

What’s more, the chicken for Pret’s sandwiches is barn-reared as opposed to free-range, and is marinated and roasted far away from those many Pret kitchens, and arrives in a cooked, shredded form, along with tubs of pre-made egg mayonnaise and cartons of soup.

So much for all the food being freshly made in the shops. Pret labels each item on the shelves with its calorie and saturated fat content and detailed nutritional information for every product is available on its website.

But in case you need some help negotiating the menu, here are ten Pret products we think you might be best to avoid . . .


Maybe Britain needs a First Amendment, too

How did Britain reach a situation where newspaper columnists can be investigated by the cops for being offensive?

Last week it emerged that the Metropolitan Police are investigating the Spectator magazine following complaints from a Muslim group about comments made on a blog entry on its website by the Daily Mail journalist Melanie Phillips. Writing about the massacre, in the West Bank, of a three-month-old Jewish girl, her two brothers and her parents as they slept in their beds, Phillips referred to the murderers as ‘savages’ and to the ‘moral depravity of the Arabs’.

Phillips is not generally noted for even-handedness when it comes to writing about the Middle East. She is often polemical, some might even say tendentious, in her support of Israel. She is certainly not everyone’s cup of tea, and perhaps you would include yourself in that. Perhaps you feel that she comes too close to smearing all Arabs. Perhaps you even think hers are the sort of views that should be investigated by the police. But then again, perhaps you don’t read her blogs and form your views of the rights and wrongs of faraway bloodshed from other sources. Perhaps you wonder what all the fuss is about.

There are echoes here of the case of another Daily Mail journalist, Jan Moir, who in 2009 upset a lot of people by appearing to attribute the death of the singer Stephen Gately to his lifestyle. Gately was gay. The Crown Prosecution Service eventually decided, about a year ago, not to prosecute Moir, but the whole episode conjured up bizarre images of crown officials poring over words and phrases in a newspaper opinion column for evidence of illegality.

And then there was the case, less well-publicised, involving Douglas Murray, another journalist. He was investigated by the Press Complaints Commission and the police merely for suggesting that the prosecution of an English councillor for telling a joke about an Irishman being a bit dim was ludicrous. And last year, too, a Liberal Democrat councillor was convicted under the 2006 Public Order Act for using ‘threatening, abusive or insulting words, with intent to cause harassment, alarm or distress’. Shirley Brown, who is black, had called a female Asian councillor, Jay Jethwa, a ‘coconut’, a colloquial term used to denote a person who is ‘brown on the outside and white on the inside’ – someone who has, in other words, betrayed his or her cultural roots by pandering to ‘white’ opinion.

But it’s not merely in print and in the debating chamber that solecisms can have repercussions: cyberspace also has its victims. Think of Paul Chambers, who was fined £3,000 and lost his job for tweeting, in jest, words to the effect that he would blow up an airport if its closure due to bad weather disrupted his travel plans. Or of Gareth Compton, the Tory councillor who was arrested in November when – after hearing the Independent’s Yasmin Alibhai-Brown argue on a radio programme that the West had no moral authority to condemn the practice of stoning women in the Muslim world – he asked his Twitter followers ‘Can someone please stone [her] to death?’, adding ‘I shan’t tell Amnesty if you don’t. It would be a blessing, really.’

That some users of social media are discovering, to their detriment, that the online environment does not in fact mirror the domain of the private conversation down the pub was perhaps inevitable. But then, as the Sky Sports commentators Andy Gray and Richard Keys – who lost their jobs for making off-colour remarks when they thought they were not being recorded – recently found out, even private conversation is no longer safe from censure.

What is going on? How did we arrive at a situation where giving offence is automatically sackable or worse? Surely the freedom to disagree with a comment or to ignore it is enough. When it is suggested that certain points of view or ways of expressing them might be or should be illegal – or that intolerance should not be tolerated, to purloin the common malapropism – a notion that should chill anyone who holds the principles of liberal democracy dear is given life: the notion of thought crime. Freedom of speech was hard-won in the West; the freedom only to speak inoffensively is no freedom at all.

If UK prime minister David Cameron seemed to grasp this when he spoke of the merits of ‘muscular liberalism’ earlier this year, it is a pity that his government’s Protection of Freedoms Bill – an Act which has been making its way through parliament since last summer and which it is intended will extend freedom of information, turn back the tide of state intrusion into our lives and repeal unnecessary criminal laws – makes no attempt to return free speech to its rightful place at the altar of democracy.

The Lib-Con coalition government may well be less authoritarian than the Labour one that preceded it, but in a way we are still suffering the hangover from New Labour and the ideals it pressed into service when it ditched socialism: diversity, equality, respect. Among the 4,300 new offences put into statute under Labour were those governing ‘hate speech’, or the giving and taking of offence. First came legislation on racial and religious hatred; later, protection was extended to gay, transgender and disabled people. Doubtless heightened sensitivity about Islam in the wake of 9/11 played its part: the Religious Hatred Act of 2006, for instance, extended outdated blasphemy laws to afford people of all faiths, including Jedis, recourse against things they don’t like hearing said or seeing written.

One of the results has been a new culture of fastidious censoriousness in every public body, human-resource department and media organisation in the land. Furthermore, the giving of offence need not be intentional, nor the words (or cartoons) themselves possessed of the propensity to give it in order for it to be taken. Never mind the freedom to speak offensively: people have been invited to believe there is such a thing as the right not to be offended. Never mind that ‘incitement to hatred’ is a grey, disputable thing, and a different thing to incitement to violence, which was already a criminal offence. Never mind that most ideas are capable of giving offence, and that Socrates, Galileo and Darwin were all considered beyond the pale in their time. And never mind that in the marketplace of ideas, ‘hate speech’ can be challenged, debated or ignored. What we now have is moderated free speech at best.

That distinction between incitement to hatred and incitement to violence is a crucial one for Peter Tatchell, one of this country’s most tireless and principled human rights campaigners. When I spoke to him last year he had recently been in the news for defending the rights of Christian preachers hounded by the law over homophobic hate-speech crimes. One American Baptist evangelist, Shawn Holes, was fined £1,000 for telling shoppers in Glasgow city centre that homosexuals were bound for hell; Tatchell, who is gay himself and renowned for his campaigning on behalf of gay rights, called it ‘an attack on free speech and a heavy-handed, excessive response to homophobia’.

He had also spoken up for the five Islamists convicted of showering abuse at British soldiers at a ‘homecoming’ march in Luton, but had elsewhere called for sanctions on extremists who incite violence – including Abu Usamah, who was shown in a Channel 4 undercover documentary advocating the killing of gays and Muslims who leave their faith. But there was no contradiction, he insisted. ‘If someone says “I want to encourage people to plant bombs in Princes Street in Edinburgh”, then that’s pretty clear incitement to violence’, he told me. ‘Saying “I sympathise with al-Qaeda” is not, on the other hand.’

While that view may not be likely to find favour with mainstream political opinion, muscular liberal or otherwise, it makes sense from a First Amendment perspective, if you’re talking American. Britain doesn’t have a First Amendment, of course, but it did produce John Stuart Mill, who wrote in 1859 that ‘there ought to exist the fullest liberty of professing and discussing, as a matter of ethical conviction, any doctrine, however immoral it may be considered’. The limits of such liberty should be defined by the ‘harm principle’, he said, not by social offence. In other words, dealing with offence is part of being a grown-up in a grown-up society.

Liberals nowadays seem to have lost the stomach for such principles, however. The word ‘liberal’ itself has come to denote a much narrower set of ideas: vaguely leftish, environmentalist, irreproachably PC, pro-European, pro-Palestine, pro-Yasmin Alibhai-Brown. Technology, meanwhile, may have helped to create a more informed and engaged citizenry, but it has also given a leg up to the power of mob rule. Online forums and message boards foster a culture of outrage, indignation and recrimination; they manufacture and mobilise offence.

The Lib-Cons’ Protection of Freedoms Act will flush away ID cards, biometric passports and the ContactPoint database of children in England. It includes provisions to restrict and regulate the use of surveillance powers, CCTV and the storage of internet and email records and it will restore rights to freedom of assembly, non-violent protest and trial by jury. It may prove to be a watershed moment for liberty in Britain. It could have been a much greater one. It is time to weigh again the value, as opposed to the price, of free speech.


There is a new lot of postings by Chris Brand just up — on his usual vastly “incorrect” themes of race, genes, IQ etc.


About jonjayray

I am former member of the Australia-Soviet Friendship Society, former anarcho-capitalist and former member of the British Conservative party. The kneejerk response of the Green/Left to people who challenge them is to say that the challenger is in the pay of "Big Oil", "Big Business", "Big Pharma", "Exxon-Mobil", "The Pioneer Fund" or some other entity that they see, in their childish way, as a boogeyman. So I think it might be useful for me to point out that I have NEVER received one cent from anybody by way of support for what I write. As a retired person, I live entirely on my own investments. I do not work for anybody and I am not beholden to anybody
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