NHS nurses who just aren’t up to the job, by their leader
Politely omitted is that many of the nurses concerened are not of British origin
Britain’s top nurse has admitted that some members of her profession are not fit to work in hospitals. Andrea Spyropoulos, president of the Royal College of Nursing, said that certain nurses ‘just don’t deliver good care’ and were neglecting patients. She said they were giving the profession ‘a bad name’ and urged their colleagues to expose them.
Her admission comes amid mounting concern that nurses are failing to provide the most basic standards of care.
This year a report by the Health Service Ombudsman exposed incidents where patients had been neglected by nurses and other staff on NHS wards. One elderly cancer patient was allowed to become so dehydrated that he could not even cry for help.
Nurses have also been blamed for the failings at Mid Staffordshire hospital, where up to 1,200 patients are thought to have died due to neglect.
Complaints against nurses reached record levels last year, with more than 3,000 made to the Nursing and Midwifery Council – twice as many as in 2007.
Addressing delegates at the RCN’s annual conference in Liverpool yesterday, Mrs Spyropoulos said: ‘To take back our pride in nursing, we must start by accepting that all is not well. There are pockets of poor care and we have to change that.
‘No matter how much we might like to think otherwise, there are some people in this profession who shouldn’t be. ‘They are a very small number and might not be in every hospital or clinical setting, but there are nurses who just don’t deliver good care. It’s these people who give us all a bad name.’
Mrs Spyropoulos, who has been in the profession for 30 years, added: ‘It’s up to us, as the nurses who do deliver good care, to stand up and expose these individuals, because if we won’t, no-one will.’
The report by the Health Service Ombudsman, Ann Abraham, accused the NHS of ‘failing to treat the elderly with dignity and respect’ and cited ten highly-distressing cases of patient neglect.
An elderly man dying of stomach cancer was desperate to go to the toilet but could not call for help because his mouth was so dry from dehydration. He had been left neglected by nurses for several hours and his emergency panic button had been left just out of reach.
Mrs Spyropoulos admitted that this case was not an ‘isolated instance’. ‘What has happened to the name of nursing? There was a time when nurses were highly valued in society, when we were held in high regard and treated with respect. ‘And now? On a regular basis we’re seeing nurses accused, mocked and vilified. ‘As many of you will know this isn’t new, but it does appear to be increasing.’
Many of the complaints about nurses to the Nursing and Midwifery Council concerned staff who were incompetent, had fallen asleep on the job or had given patients the wrong doses of drugs.
At the end of last year the Daily Mail launched a campaign with the Patients Association calling for elderly patients to be treated with more dignity and respect.
With the help of our generous readers we were able to raise £100,000 to help the Patients Association man a helpline to assist with the rising number of complaints.
‘Simply unacceptable’: Surgery lottery for bowel cancer revealed, as death rates shown to be far higher than thought
Deaths after surgery for bowel cancer are far higher than previously thought, exposing differences between NHS hospitals. For the first time, figures reveal the extent of the postcode lottery suffered by many patients. The wide variation between the worst and best performing hospitals was described as ‘worrying’ by leading charity charities.
The lowest number of patients dying soon after major surgery from 2003-6 was under two per cent for Central Manchester University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust. But for Burton Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, the figure was nearly 16 per cent.
On average, almost 11,000 patients – equivalent to 6.7 per cent – died within a month of surgery for bowel cancer between 1998 and 2006. This is much higher than the 4.7 per cent previously recorded.
It is also higher than death rates in the U.S., Scandinavia and Canada, where figures range from 2.7 to 5.7 per cent. These countries also have better five-year survival rates, along with many European countries.
In the UK, regional variations in death rates after surgery for bowel cancer remained even when other factors were taken into account, such as the patient’s age and hospital case loads.
The risk was higher among older patients, those with underlying conditions and those with advanced cancer. The likelihood of death was also greater for those living in deprived areas and patients who needed emergency surgery.
Women were significantly less likely to die after surgery than men, according to the findings published in the medical journal Gut.
Cancer Research UK, which funded the study, said the death rate of 6.7 per cent was ‘notably higher’ than an audit last year which used voluntary returns from hospitals. This appeared to have under-reported cases, added the charity.
Bowel, or colorectal, cancer is Britain’s second most common cause of cancer death after lung. Each year, more than 16,000 people die from the disease and almost 40,000 new cases are diagnosed. The latest study, the first of its kind, looked at data from more than 160,000 patients who had surgery carried out by 150 hospital teams across England.
Professor Paul Finan, one of the authors, from Leeds General Infirmary, said the variations between hospitals was a ‘concern’ but the reasons remained unclear. ‘It could be surgical complications but may be the resources available for dealing with patients with bowel cancer,’ he added.
Ciarán Devane, chief executive at Macmillan Cancer Support said: ‘This report shows worrying variation. ‘Some parts of the country do a great job: other surgeons need to learn from them. ‘Such variation in care, and the fact it impacts on how likely a patient is to live, is simply unacceptable.’
The Government’s ‘cancer tsar’ Professor Mike Richards said screening was likely to cut deaths in future, along with better training of surgeons, new keyhole techniques and improved post-operative care.
A spokesman for Burton Hospitals said the trust’s survival rates had risen after improvements made since 2006.
Shame as British Navy seizes 17 armed Somalis, gives them halal meat and nicotine patches… then sets them free!
Walking the plank was once a guarantee of preventing future offending by pirates. Why not now?
When a Royal Navy warship captured a crew of Somali pirates, it seemed like a rare chance to strike back at the ruthless sea gangsters. The 17 outlaws were armed with an arsenal of AK 47s and rocket-propelled grenades, and had forced hostages on a hijacked fishing vessel to work as slaves for three months.
But instead of bringing them to justice, the British servicemen were ordered to provide the pirates halal meals, medical checks, cigarettes – and in one case even a nicotine patch – before releasing them in their own boats.
The extraordinary treatment – revealed in a Radio 4 documentary to be broadcast tonight – came at a time when Somali piracy is causing mayhem to shipping in the Indian Ocean. More than £60million was paid in ransoms last year and pirates currently hold 30 ships and nearly 800 hostages.
HMS Cornwall is one of two Royal Navy frigates patrolling two and a half million square miles of ocean to try to capture pirate ships.
The apparent breakthrough came in February when the captain of a merchant ship crossing the ocean radioed to say he had seen something suspicious. A helicopter was scrambled and spotted a Yemeni fishing vessel which had been hijacked by pirates and was being used as their ‘mother ship’ to attack other vessels.
Armed Royal Marines launched boats and swooped on the pirates, who were found with nine AK 47s plus rocket-propelled grenade launchers and boarding ladders. The five slave crew from the fishing vessel were released and the 17 pirates initially detained on board the warship.
Commander David Wilkinson, Cornwall’s captain, said: ‘This team admitted their intention was to commit piracy activities.’ But after compiling the evidence against them and submitting it to his superiors he was ordered to ‘set up arrangements for putting them ashore in Somalia’.
Before being freed, the pirates were given a medical check-up in accordance with UK law and food which included a halal option to take into account religious needs. After showing they were compliant, some were given cigarettes, and one was given a nicotine patch on medical advice because his tobacco withdrawal had caused his heart rate to soar.
Close to shore, the British servicemen set them free in two skiffs which they had earlier seized from the gangsters – with no food and just enough fuel to get them to land.
As they stepped off the warship, Commander Wilkinson told the head of the pirate gang: ‘If you are a leader, go back and lead for good. ‘If you are going to carry on in this trade, expect to find me and my colleagues waiting for you. And if I see you again, it’s not going to go well.’
Commander Wilkinson added that he believed the order to free the pirates was the ‘right decision’ because he was not convinced bringing them back to the UK would have been a deterrent. He also said he was unconvinced that they had enough evidence to convict the pirates – even though they were heavily armed, were carrying hostages and had confessed.
The decision to release the pirates was made by the UK’s Maritime Component Commander based in Bahrain after considering UK policy and law.
Foreign Office Minister Henry Bellingham said the Government is reviewing the ‘catch and release’ approach to piracy. ‘It is not going to happen in the future unless there isn’t any other alternative.’
British “safety” measures make racecourse more dangerous
Measures pushed by animal rights people in order to make it safer for horses are actually killing them — and hurting riders too
A jockey was clinging to life in a coma last night as a champion trainer accused ‘do-gooders’ of making horse racing more deadly. Red Rum’s trainer, Ginger McCain, said safety measures at the Grand National had made it faster and more dangerous.
Two horses died in Saturday’s National and jockey Peter Toole suffered horrific injuries in a fall during an earlier race at Aintree. A third horse, Inventor, was destroyed after breaking its leg in a race on Thursday.
The incidents prompted condemnation from animal rights organisations, which called for the National to be banned or made safer.
But Mr McCain said safety measures, including reducing ‘drops’ on the landing side of fences, had inadvertently made it more dangerous. The veteran trainer, who won three times with Red Rum, said: ‘It’s getting quicker and it’s speed that does it… They’ve taken the drops out for the do-gooders and it has encouraged the horses to go quicker. It is speed that kills.’
Winner Ballabriggs – trained by Mr McCain’s son Donald – completed the race in the second-fastest time ever but his jockey was handed a five-day ban for excessive use of the whip. Donald McCain said: ‘It’s unfortunate that accidents and injuries happen. ‘Every horse deserves his chance to be a great horse. There is no great joy for a horse being stuck in a field. If it does not want to jump at Aintree, he won’t jump. ‘They have done everything they can to be the safest race it can be.’
An estimated worldwide audience of 600 million viewers saw his triumph, but many watched in horror as two horses, Ornais and Dooneys Gate, died on the Grand National course.
Two hours earlier, 22-year-old jockey Mr Toole suffered serious injuries in a fall during the Maghull Novices’ Chase. His horse, the 100-1 outsider Classic Fly, fell at the first fence of the race, which is not run over the Grand National jumps. Video appeared to show another horse kicking Mr Toole’s head.
He was taken to hospital and later transferred to the Walton Centre for Neurology and Neurosurgery in Liverpool, amid fears he could have suffered brain damage. Doctors put him into a medically induced coma as they battled to treat bleeding on the right side of his brain and are expected to keep him in it until today at the earliest.
The Grand National is billed as the ‘ultimate test’ of horse and jockey, but critics said the treatment of horses amounted to animal cruelty. Forty horses started the race this year but only 19 completed it. The League Against Cruel Sports branded the Grand National ‘ritualised animal cruelty’ and called for a boycott of racing’s ‘day of shame’.
Animal Aid director Andrew Tyler said: ‘The public has been conned into believing the Grand National is a great sporting spectacle when, in reality, it is animal abuse that is on a par with Spanish bullfighting.’
Aintree’s managing director Julian Thick said: ‘Safety is the first priority. We are desperately sad at the accidents and our thoughts go out to the connections of Ornais and Dooneys Gate.’
RSPCA equine consultant David Muir said the charity could not stop deaths, despite working with Aintree to improve safety.
‘Non jobs’ gravy train rolls on for British councils
Councils have recruited an army of climate change workers, equality officers, communications staff and other “non jobs”, while cutting front line services
The first survey of local authorities since the coalition came to power last May has found that town halls created more than 4,000 new posts during the period.
Despite the public sector being told to make sweeping cuts, councils have advertised for posts such as “woodfuel development officer”, “new media staff” and “healthy workplace coordinators”.
Last night Eric Pickles, the communities secretary, said the appointments were “self indulgent” and “irresponsible”.
The findings come as councils are under unprecedented financial pressure and try to cut costs by increasing charges, cutting basic services and closing facilities such as libraries.
Mr Pickles accused some authorities of making “politically-motivated” cuts, ahead of next month’s local elections, by blaming the Tory-led coalition for cuts to services on which the public rely, while protecting “pet projects” and bloated bureaucracies.
The research show that in total, 205 councils have created a total of 4,148 new posts since May 1 last year.
Most have reduced their overall staffing levels during the period but the study found that while doing so, many have continued to create brand new roles for “communications officers”, “equality officers” and “climate change staff”.
Councils have also recruited dozens of workers to enhance the “wellbeing” of staff and “customers”, as well as “life skills” experts, who teach members of the public basic tasks such as ironing.
The figures also reveal a boom in such jobs as “walking coordinators”, “obesity strategy officers”, and “active” workers, whose job is to encourage the public to pursue more healthy lifestyles.
* At Anglesey, where no party is in overall control, 48 council jobs and 16 teachers are to be cut, the authority has created new posts for an “age friendly communities” manager – to make the island a better place to live for older residents – a walking and cycling officer, a “community conservation” officer – to run “green gym” schemes, where people are encouraged to create community gardens and plant trees – and an “Energy Island” programme office administrator, to promote renewable energy. The council insisted the roles would benefit Anglesey economically.
* In Hastings, the Labour-run council has put up parking charges, shut down public lavatories, reduced maintenance of allotments, cut the budget for lifeguards and closed the local museum one day a week, and is planning job cuts. But it has also created 25 new jobs including three “active women officers” whose job is to get local women involved in netball, athletics, cycling, badminton, rounders, tennis, table tennis or swimming. A spokesman justified these posts saying they could help to reduce costs to the taxpayer by increasing fitness levels.
One post, created by Tory-run Charnwood council – where charges for using public lavatories have been introduced and job cuts planned – is for a member of staff to encourage asylum seekers and ethnic minorities to get involved in nature conservation projects. It is partly funded with Lottery money
Mr Pickles said: “The public will be very unimpressed to see some pet project put together when front line services are being chopped.
“These recruitment decisions are made at a local level and it is up to local people to let their council know exactly how they feel about what can only be described as irresponsible, short-sighted appointments.
“There are people on the front line who will be losing their jobs because of the self-aggrandisement and self indulgence of these appointments.” He added: “It is pretty clear that a number of Labour-run authorities are cutting front line services and blaming the Tories, but I think people are rumbling them.
“Councils should be grown up and take responsibility rather than expecting everything to be decided for them at the centre. We gave the clearest indication that there would be significant reductions in public expenditure.
“They have ignored that advice and will be delivering – because of these non-jobs – a worse service to the public.
“Sensible and prudent councils could see that cuts were on the way and prepared for them by not recruiting. All these other councils have done is make their situation worse. They have cut off their flexibility.”
Some councils responded to the survey to say they had not created any new posts, while others said they were unable to provide the information.
Some of the new jobs are part funded by other public bodies, such as NHS Trusts or Natural England.
Councils argue that some of the posts are created by reorganising their structures, that others are to cover for maternity leave and that some of them are in schools.
John Ransford, chief executive of the Local Government Association, said: “Far from being a bloated bureaucracy, the local government workforce is being reduced by 140,000 over the next year as councils cut their cloth to prioritise frontline services.
“Many local authorities are restructuring their entire operations to cut management costs, and if some new posts are created it must be seen in the context of the overall numbers of staff being reduced.
“Councils are responsible for providing 800 different services, and many of the posts often denigrated as ‘non-jobs’ reflect a lack of understanding about the complex nature of the vital work local authorities do.”
Why the Obamas were omitted from the guest list to the Royal wedding
“Let me be clear: I’m not normally in favor of boycotts, and I love the American people. I holiday in their country regularly, and hate the tedious snobby sneers against the United States . But the American people chose to elect an idiot who seems hell bent on insulting their allies, and something must be done to stop Obama’s reckless foreign policy, before he does the dirty on his allies on every issue.”
One of the most poorly kept secrets in Washington is President Obama’s animosity toward Great Britain , presumably because of what he regards as its sins while ruling Kenya (1895-1963).
One of Barack Hussein Obama’s first acts as president was to return to Britain a bust of Winston Churchill that had graced the Oval Office since 9/11. He followed this up by denying Prime Minister Gordon Brown, on his first state visit, the usual joint press conference with flags.
The president was “too tired” to grant the leader of America ‘s closest ally a proper welcome, his aides told British journalists.
Mr. Obama followed this up with cheesy gifts for Mr. Brown and the Queen. Columnist Ian Martin described his behavior as “rudeness personified.” There was more rudeness in store for Mr. Brown at the opening session of the United Nations in September. “The prime minister was forced to dash through the kitchens of the UN in New York to secure five minutes of face time with President Obama after five requests for a sit down meeting were rejected by the White House,” said London Telegraph columnist David Hughes. Mr. Obama’s “churlishness is unforgivable,” Mr. Hughes said.
The administration went beyond snubs and slights last week when Secretary of State Hillary Clinton endorsed the demand of Argentine President Cristina Kirchner, a Hugo Chavez ally, for mediation of Argentina ‘s specious claim to the Falkland Islands , a British dependency since 1833. The people who live in the Falklands, who speak English, want nothing to do with Argentina . When, in 1982, an earlier Argentine dictatorship tried to seize the Falklands by force, the British — with strong support from President Ronald Reagan — expelled them.
“It is truly shocking that Barack Obama has decided to disregard our shared history,” wrote Telegraph columnist Toby Young. “Does Britain ‘s friendship really mean so little to him?” One could ask, does the friendship of anyone in the entire world mean anything to him?
“I recently asked several senior administration officials, separately, to name a foreign leader with whom Barack Obama has forged a strong personal relationship during his first year in office,” wrote Jackson Diehl, deputy editorial page editor of the Washington Post, on Monday. ” A lot of hemming and hawing ensued.” One official named French President Nicolas Sarkozy, but his contempt for Mr. Obama is an open secret. Another named German Chancellor Angela Merkel. But, said Mr. Diehl, “Merkel too has been conspicuously cool toward Obama.”
Mr. Obama certainly doesn’t care about the Poles and Czechs, whom he has betrayed on missile defense. Honduras and Israel also can attest that he’s been an unreliable ally and an unfaithful friend. Ironically, our relations with both Israel and the Palestinian Authority have never been worse. Russia has offered nothing in exchange for Mr. Obama’s abandonment of missile defense. Russia and China won’t support serious sanctions on Iran . Syria ‘s support for terrorism has not diminished despite efforts to normalize diplomatic relations. The reclusive military dictatorship that runs Burma has responded to our efforts at “engagement” by deepening its ties to North Korea .
And the Chinese make little effort to disguise their contempt for him.
For the first time in a long time, the President of the United States is actually distrusted by its allies and not in the least feared by its adversaries. Nor is Mr. Obama now respected by the majority of Americans. Understandably focused on the dismal economy and Mr. Obama’s relentless efforts to nationalize and socialize health care, Americans apparently have yet to notice his dismal performance and lack of respect in the world community.
They soon will.
The above is an expanded version (expander unknown) of a blog post by Alex Singleton of the London Daily Telegraph. The expansions are factual as far as I can see
Britain needs to end its love affair with the world stage
I rarely agree with anything in “The Guardian” but the points below seem reasonable. Britain is in too big a mess for foreign adventures
While we pull in our belts at home, our leaders get carried away abroad. It’s time we turned our backs on our imperial past
There are three ways to respond when the going gets tough: head in the sand, try to sort things out, or suddenly get very busy elsewhere. Which perhaps explains why David Cameron has been focusing so much on “abroad” recently, and I don’t just mean his bargain break in Spain.
With his government’s two flagship policies in crisis, Cameron has decided to apologise for Britain’s role in world conflicts. This will do nothing to sort out the chaos of tuition fees – with most universities now declaring themselves the exception and charging the full whack of œ9,000. Nor will it help the unnecessary revolution in the NHS, which has at least been “paused” in the light of howls of fury from the professionals.
Yes, the British are pulling in their belts and bracing themselves for some sparse years ahead – except apparently abroad, where the union flag flutters high as ever. Look at the pilots over Libya, the troops in Afghanistan, the diplomats and the aid workers. From the mountains to the deserts, the demands seem endless for Britain to “step in”, and today’s politicians clearly enjoy the international spotlight just as much as yesterday’s. Yet the mismatch between the bulldog’s growl and the reality of its kennel has never been greater.
It’s often said that prime ministers arrive determined to push through a domestic agenda until they eventually get distracted by the glamour of overseas crises. This happened with Margaret Thatcher three years in, when the Falklands crisis was forced on her; and with Tony Blair as the Balkans blazed, long before Iraq. Blair’s focus on domestic policy never really returned; had it done so, maybe he would have wrestled control back from his chancellor.
Cameron’s whirlwind romance with the international spotlight has happened even faster. He arrived as a man bent on dealing with the deficit and promising his “big society” as a cure for socialist statism. Yet the crises at home now include not only health and higher education, but the cost of petrol, problems over pension reform and now, we hear, a row with the Lib Dems over banking reform. You would think, given all this, that the prime minister had no time for anything else. Far from it. The bugle has sounded, calling him to high-level talks in London; summits across Europe; confabulations with Barack and Hillary; more emergency statements in the Commons, with furrowed brows and much backbench applause. I am not particularly blaming Cameron. We have seen it all before; remember how Blair suddenly ascended into heaven on Blairforce One and spent most of his time pop-eyed with history-making grandeur?
Part of the problem, of course, is that it is simply more exciting to make peace and war, than to struggle with the details of welfare reform or how to cut civil service budgets without a vote-destroying loss of service. It’s more exciting for the ministers but also for their advisers and for the media pack watching; bangs and clouds of smoke seem to sell front pages and news bulletins too.
Yet I would argue that something happens in particular to British prime ministers, in the here and now, which is a problem and is correctable. Few other countries, bar France, have an equivalently grand post-imperial, military-state set up. I don’t mean the buildings, though these play their part, but more the whole panoply of mysterious secret service chiefs, chiefs of staff, UN security council membership, nuclear buttons and telephone hotlines. You want to speak to the White House? No problem. You need to visit our boys? Helicopters and jets are waiting. For a young politician who had only had a job as a PR man before Westminster it must have been particularly head-turning.
And once upon a time it might even have been reasonable, as Britain continued to gently adjust to new realities. But we have a big debt, dwindling military capabilities and far bigger problems to confront as a country. We don’t know how we are going to pay our way in the world any more. We are still unsure of how, if at all, we fit into the rest of the European project. It is no longer appropriate that it is Britain who, when some part of the world goes up in smoke, rides first toward the sound of gunfire.
We should do our bit, but no more. We should learn our lesson after Iraq. Why should richer, bigger Germany do so little in Afghanistan? Why was Libya not an Italian problem before it was a British one? Now that India and Brazil bulk so large on the world stage, why aren’t these two democracies doing more for the democratic cause?
If our gung-ho attitude to foreign intervention is a displacement activity, distracting us from economic and industrial decline, then we need to wake up. If we do it because we think it makes a little of America’s lustre rub off on its most loyal ally, we should take a good look in the mirror and around the world. If we carry on because “that’s what we’re good at” (fighting) then we need to ask ourselves if this is really the national specialism we want, given how many people it kills and maims, how much anger it causes abroad and how we do it for no payment at all.
It’s time, after Cameron’s apology, to turn our backs on our imperial-military past and become a different kind of country again – harder working, better educated, readier to bring aid and medicine than warplanes. It would be a hard adjustment for parts of the London establishment but it would be better for our long-term security.
British PM locks horns with Oxford U over racism, as dons demand he withdraw ‘one black student’ claim
David Cameron was locked in a bitter row with Oxford University last night after accusing it of racism. The Prime Minister – who studied at Oxford – denounced the institution as ‘disgraceful’ for admitting only one black student in an academic year.
But the university accused Mr Cameron of failing to get his facts straight, pointing out that 41 students from black and ethnic minority backgrounds were admitted that year.
Mr Cameron spoke out during a local election campaign visit to Harrogate, North Yorkshire. He said: ‘I saw figures the other day that showed that only one black person went to Oxford last year. I think that is disgraceful, we have got to do better than that.’
The Prime Minister, who read philosophy, politics and economics at Brasenose College after attending Eton, also said the top universities had a ‘terrible’ record when it came to admitting students from state schools. He said the numbers had gone down in the last 20 years.
The Coalition has pledged to avoid meddling in university admissions. And although it has told universities to improve support for poorer pupils if they wish to charge the new £9,000 annual maximum for tuition fees, it has made no provision for raising the number of ethnic minority applicants.
In 2009 – the year Mr Cameron was referring to – 27 black British students gained undergraduate places at Oxford, as well as 14 students of mixed race. Of the 27 black students, one was of black Caribbean origin, 23 were black African and three were listed as black ‘other’.
An Oxford University spokesman said: ‘The figure quoted by the Prime Minister is incorrect and highly misleading – it only refers to UK undergraduates of black Caribbean origin for a single year of entry, when in fact that year Oxford admitted 41 UK undergraduates with black backgrounds. ‘In that year a full 22 per cent of Oxford’s total student population came from ethnic minority background.’
That figure is double the rate in Britain as a whole – but many of these students are from overseas. And Oxford has just 99 black undergraduates from all over the world in all years, out of a student population of more than 11,000. With postgraduate students included, this figure rises to 245.
The spokesman pointed out that in 2009, 26,000 white students got the three A grades at A-level necessary to be considered by Oxford, but just 542 black pupils managed to do so. Of those straight-A students, 8.9 per cent of white pupils got places at Oxford compared with 7.5 per cent of black students.
Oxford also pointed out that black students apply in disproportionately high numbers for the most heavily oversubscribed courses, such as medicine, making it less likely that they will win places.
Last night Downing Street refused to back down, saying Mr Cameron was making a valid point about the failure to help some ethnic minority pupils. A spokesman said: ‘The wider point he was making was that it was not acceptable for universities such as Oxford to have so few students coming from black and ethnic minority groups.’
Aides expressed incredulity that Oxford was defending the admission of just 41 black students in a year. One said: ‘People will be pretty shocked by that figure. It’s nothing to write home about.’
But Mr Cameron’s intervention fuelled concerns among some Tories that he is under-briefed and overly-keen to let his mouth run away with him. Former Cabinet minister Lord Tebbit yesterday criticised the failure of the Downing Street machine to get the correct facts into his hands. He said: ‘What worries me is that the Prime Minister’s briefings for these sort of occasions seem to be so poor. This sort of thing is happening much too often.’
Shadow education secretary Andy Burnham accused Mr Cameron of being ‘cavalier’ with the facts. And shadow business secretary John Denham warned that huge rises in tuition fees would make it harder for black students to go to Oxford. He said: ‘The Tory-led Government’s plan to triple fees will make this situation worse, not better.
‘The Government keeps making false promises on university access and social mobility. ‘The Office of Fair Access cannot impose quotas on social access, determine individual university admissions policies or set fees levels, regardless of what ministers claim they can do. ‘With their plans for universities becoming yet another embarrassing shambles, David Cameron needs to get a grip.’
You can’t burn Korans in Britain
“A senior member of the British National Party has been arrested for allegedly burning a copy of the Koran in his garage. Sion Owens, a BNP candidate in the forthcoming Welsh Assembly elections, was charged under the Public Order Act.
He was said to have soaked the Islamic holy book in kerosene, set fire to it and watched it burn. Footage was then apparently circulated among extremists.
The alleged act, considered highly offensive to Muslims, comes after dozens died last week in riots fuelled by a similar Koran-burning incident in America.
U.S. pastor Terry Jones – who caused an outcry when he threatened to burn the holy text last year – supervised as his assistant went through with the stunt at his church in Florida late last month.
Last night, the Home Office ‘absolutely condemned’ the Koran-burning incident. A statement said: ‘It is fundamentally offensive to the values of our pluralist and tolerant society.’
South Wales Police said: ‘We always adopt an extremely robust approach to allegations of this sort and find this sort of intolerance unacceptable in our society.’
I would have thought that arresting a man for burning his own property was “fundamentally offensive to the values of our pluralist and tolerant society”