The thousands of NHS jobs still being advertised which expose the great cuts myth
The NHS bureaucracy would survive a nuclear winter
On an almost daily basis, we are told by the BBC and the vociferous health unions that the NHS is in ‘financial crisis’. The Royal College of Nursing is predicting 40,000 job ‘cuts’, while it is claimed that patients are being denied hip replacements and even cancer treatments in order to save money. Ward closures are being predicted by the King’s Fund think-tank, and there are dire warnings that patient waiting times are expected to get much longer.
How strange, then, that the official NHS Jobs website should be doing such brisk business at the start of the new financial year — the very year the ‘cuts’ are supposed to bite. The site, where all vacant health service posts are officially advertised, is predicting 20,000 jobs will continue to be available each month. And, on a single day this week, there were 6,175 posts available — with salaries totalling hundreds of millions of pounds.
They range from nurses and doctors to well-paid administrative jobs with such dubious titles as ‘5 for Life officer’, ‘psychosexual counsellor’, ‘BME (black minority ethnic) inequalities outreach worker’ and, bafflingly, ‘anthropologist-in-residence’.
Indeed, some 265 of the jobs being advertised pay more than £90,000-a-year — hardly evidence of an NHS in the grip of an austerity drive, facing what has widely been described as the ‘biggest challenge in its history’.
The fact is that for all the disingenuous bluster of the Left-wing media and shroud-waving unions, there has not been a ‘cut’ in the NHS budget. In fact, an extra £3 billion is being ‘invested’ (the euphemistic word that Labour, and now the Tories, use when they mean ‘spent’) on the health service this year, taking the total to £105.9 billion.
The Institute for Fiscal Studies has confirmed that next year David Cameron will meet the Tories’ specific election pledge to increase the NHS budget. Indeed, over the course of the Comprehensive Spending Review, the overall NHS budget will increase by 0.4 per cent in real terms.
The reason the vested interest groups are so furious is a requirement that — in return for this increased funding — the NHS must make ‘efficiency savings’ worth £15 billion to £20 billion over the next four years. Again, these are not ‘cuts’. Any money saved is ring-fenced and must be pumped back into patient care.
The sensible intention is to reduce the amount of money being squandered by health service managers whose budgets, and own remuneration, ballooned under Labour.
For the truth is that figures from the Office for National Statistics estimate that since 2000, total NHS productivity fell by an average of 0.2 per cent a year, and by an average of 1.4 per cent a year in hospitals. Overall, the decline in productivity — the value provided to the taxpayer, for each pound spent — was a dreadful 15 per cent, a collapse that would lead to bankruptcy in any private sector concern.
Clearly, there is more than a little fat to be cut from the NHS budget. However, the question is whether the savings are being made in the right places. This is where the RCN may have a point. For healthcare experts fear that efficiencies will come from frontline services, rather than by reducing the number of penpushers.
The real scandal is that bureaucrats — many of them performing non-jobs — were the main beneficiaries of Labour’s spending boom. In 1999, there were 23,378 managers and senior managers in the NHS. By 2009, the number had almost doubled to 42,509, with manager numbers increasing six times as fast as that of nurses.
Instead of reducing this army of bureaucrats, the NHS managers claim that they must remain because they are the only ones with the necessary skills to make ‘efficiency’ savings. As a result, it will be nursing posts which won’t be replaced. Meanwhile, administrators will continue to pick up fat cheques.
Certainly, a glance at the NHS Jobs website suggests that, like town halls — which are closing libraries and axing lollipop ladies while paying their chief executives more than the Prime Minister — the priorities of the NHS are utterly wrong. For example, County Durham and Darlington NHS Foundation Trust recently said it would be losing 300 nursing posts by 2014, as part of a £60 million cost-cutting exercise. But, at the same time, the trust is advertising 13 vacancies, including one for an ‘academic clinical fellow’ on up to £46,708 a year.
Elsewhere, Kent and Medway plans to slash its nursing, midwifery and health visitor workforce by 264, yet has money to advertise 27 jobs this week, including a ‘psychological well?being officer’ on a salary of up to £27,534.
Kingston Hospital NHS Trust plans to get rid of 214 nursing posts — but, according to NHS Jobs, is ready to pay a new chief operating officer a staggering £120,000.
And the list goes on and on. Birmingham and Solihull Mental Health Foundation Trust said that, to save money, it is shutting down a programme which helps people with mental health problems.
WHAT ABOUT THESE JOBS?
Anthropologist-in-Residence (30 hours per week), Devon Partnership NHS Trust, £30,460 to £40,157 pa: ‘We require a social anthropologist to work on a programme of community innovation including a new project entitled Neighbourhood Health Watch. The outputs will be used by commissioners and service planners, designers and engineers to build, demonstrate and evaluate innovations, new health technologies, interventions or services.’
Psychosexual Counsellor, NHS Wirral, £25,472 to £34,189 pa
‘You will work within our busy service that provides both Psychosexual and Contraceptive and Sexual Health to the population of the Wirral.’
5 Five for Life Officer, Aneurin Bevan Health Board, £21,176 to £27,625
‘The 5 for Life project aims to promote healthy living to children under 12 years in Newport. Activities delivered include a variety of sports and games, cooking lessons to parents and children and nutrition lessons around healthy eating.’
Pathway and Innovation Manager, Royal Bournemouth and Christchurch Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, £30,460 to £40,157:
‘You will constructively challenge practice by advancing ways to innovate across end to end elective pathways. The successful candidate will need to be able to enthuse and inspire all staff groups, across the hospital, to seek out ways of further improving our strong clinical and operational performance.
Associate Director of HR (People Services), Rotherham NHS Foundation Trust, £54,454 to £67,134: ‘You will report to the Director of People and Organisational Development. The two roles will be responsible for developing the Trust’s People and Organisational functions of employee relations, performance and productivity, equality and human rights and pay services.’
Yet it has managed to find up to £55,945 a year for a ‘head of employee and staff relations’. There are also vacancies for three human resources managers, on £34,189 each.
None of these will be doing much to help the mentally ill — or probably anybody else for that matter. To leave nursing posts unfilled while hiring yet more human resources staff will rightly enrage nurses and the public.
In other areas, on the NHS payroll are many people who seem to have little to do with healthcare — such as those helping to run a children’s summer playgroup in Peterborough for youngsters with English as a second language.
While the Government’s communities department has taken up the fight and is challenging council chief executives to explain why they are cutting frontline public services when their chief executives pocket bloated salaries (and bonuses), the embattled Health Secretary Andrew Lansley (who is fighting to rescue his NHS reforms in the face of a revolt by the Lib Dems) has yet to show the same mettle. Admittedly, he probably fears being considered an ‘enemy’ of the health service.
Instead, it was left to the NHS chief executive Sir David Nicholson to say: ‘There is no excuse to reduce services for patients when the NHS will receive an extra £11.5 billion of funding. Every penny saved from measures taken to reduce costs will be reinvested in patient care.’ Mr Lansley should point out that, as yet, there is no evidence that anybody is suffering.
Meanwhile, far from preparing to shed 40,000 jobs, including 20,000 nursing posts, the latest published figures show the number of nurses has gone up by 1,272 from September 2010 to December 2010, and by 2,677 since September 2009.
To be fair, the Federation of Surgical Speciality Associations (which represents the country’s surgeons) says growing numbers of patients are wrongly being denied a new hip or even cancer treatment because of NHS cost-cutting.
But the truth is that while operations are being refused or delayed so that primary care trusts can balance their books, the NHS can find £40,157 a year for an ‘anthropologist-in-chief’ to work at Devon Partnership Trust; £101,829 a year for a ‘director of performance and innovation’ at NHS South West London; £31,664 a year for a European projects administrator, based in Brussels; and £67,134 a year for an associate director of HR (organisational development) in Rotherham.
This is nothing short of scandalous.The truth is that the NHS swallowed huge sums of money under Labour and, unlike the rest of the state sector, continues to be offered special treatment by the Coalition government. But where savings of wasted public money need to be made, they should come from the back office — not from doctors and nurses trained in saving lives.
Chilling effect of Euro judges: Britain’s public safety being put at risk by human rights court, warns top Lib Dem lawyer
Rulings by unelected judges in Strasbourg are having a ‘chilling effect’ on public safety in Britain, a senior government adviser warns today. Lord Carlile, a Liberal Democrat peer, said the European Court of Human Rights had placed itself on a ‘collision course’ with the UK Parliament.
In particular, he attacked the way the European Convention on Human Rights was blocking the removal of foreign criminals and terror suspects. Lord Carlile, a Home Office adviser on terrorism, said: ‘A narrow interpretation of the convention has had a chilling effect on deportation, and thereby on public safety.’
The fact that such scathing comments are being made by a Lib Dem grandee will reopen the controversy over human rights law.
Prime Minister David Cameron promised to reform the law in opposition, but he has since been frustrated by his Lib Dem coalition partners.
The peer made his remarks in the foreword to a new report by Tory MP Dominic Raab, an expert in international law who led the backbench revolt against prisoner voting. The pamphlet, for the Civitas think-tank, calls for urgent reform of human rights legislation to keep European judges from deciding British law.
Mr Raab says that, by granting prisoners the vote, Strasbourg went beyond simply interpreting the convention, which was deliberately worded to allow members states to disenfranchise criminals. Instead, Strasbourg is now ‘making law’. As a result, Mr Raab says democratic policy-making increasingly stands at the mercy of unelected judges.
He writes: ‘The judges have assumed a legislative function, fully aware that there are limited means for elected governments subject to their rulings to exercise any meaningful democratic oversight over them. This judicial coup represents a naked usurpation, by a judicial body, of the legislative power that properly belongs to democratically-elected law makers.’
Mr Raab, a former chief of staff to Attorney General Dominic Grieve, calls for the UK’s Supreme Court to be the last court of appeal, rather than Strasbourg.
He also wants the Human Rights Act to be amended to ensure Strasbourg rulings involving the UK are subject to a debate in the House of Commons. This would be coupled by a political commitment by the main parties to permit ‘free votes’.
Mr Raab also attacks human rights laws which prevent the deportation of criminals and terrorist suspects. Last year, more than 200 foreign convicts evaded removal on the grounds that it would infringe their right to a ‘family life’.
Cases included Iraqi Mohammed Ibrahim, who knocked down 12-year-old Amy Houston and left her to ‘die like a dog’ under the wheels of his car. He was driving while disqualified, and after the little girl’s death he committed a string of further offences. An immigration tribunal ruled that – because Ibrahim had children while living in Britain – he had a right to a ‘family life’ in the UK.
Mr Raab says: ‘The massive expansion of human rights law threatens to frustrate Britain’s ability to deport convicted criminals and terrorist suspects. The goal-posts keep shifting, because of unaccountable judicial legislation – especially the expansion of claims around the right to family life.
‘Britain has lost a degree of control over its borders, which inevitably means we are importing more risk. This has contributed to the growing terrorist threat.’ Mr Raab calls for the law to be changed so the right to a family life is no longer a bar to deportation.
Scandal of Britain’s untrained teachers: Thousands don’t have degrees in the subjects they teach
More than a quarter of teachers in many subjects do not have any qualification beyond an A-level in the course they teach, official figures reveal. Almost a million children are taught maths by ‘inadequately qualified’ teachers, and English doesn’t fare much better.
Government statistics on nearly 140,000 secondary school teachers – collected for the first time – show a shocking proportion of teachers do not have a degree in their subject. Education experts warn that this ‘alarming’ lack of qualifications will result in schools becoming trapped in a spiral of slipping standards.
A quarter of maths teachers in secondary schools – 26.6 per cent or 8,745 – do not have a degree in their subject, and nor do 28.7 per cent of geography teachers, 31.4 per cent of physics teachers and 55 per cent teaching religious education. Worse still, 63 per cent of business and economics teachers and 82 per cent in media studies do not have a degree in their chosen field.
Of the ‘core’ subjects included in Education Secretary Michael Gove’s new performance measure, the EBacc, biology is the only subject to have a high proportion of teachers, 92 per cent, who are subject specialists. A total of 7,560 of 36,600 secondary school English teachers – 21 per cent – do not have an English degree.
Professor Alan Smithers, of Buckingham University, said: ‘The lack of qualifications held by teachers is alarming and will have consequences. ‘It is little wonder that in comparison with the rest of the developed world, our standards are slipping. It takes more than a good degree to make a good teacher. But sound subject knowledge, gained from a degree, is absolutely key. ‘How can teachers passionately communicate their subject if they do not have a good level of understanding about it?’
He said the Government urgently needs to break the cycle of inadequate training because it results in less qualified students and, as a result, a smaller pool from which to find the teachers of the future.
Yesterday’s figures, from the Department for Education, were collected as part of the 2010 school workforce census. In previous years the Government has used a sample of staff to gauge the level of teachers holding degrees. This year they sought to gather information on all 200,000 qualified teachers, and 140,000 responded.
The figures follow Mr Gove’s pledge to attract more graduates with first-class honours into teaching to raise the status of the profession. However, the Coalition has also cut the number of training places and axed ‘golden hellos’ for all but maths and science teachers. Graduates with less than a 2:2 degree will no longer be eligible for teacher training funding.
Schools Minister Nick Gibb said: ‘We are trying to increase the number of graduates in subjects coming into teacher training.’
A Department for Education spokesman added: ‘It’s clear that the leading systems are built on teachers with expert, specialist subject knowledge. ‘We’ve struggled to attract enough graduates in shortage subjects like physics, chemistry and maths for a long time. That’s why we’re taking radical steps to toughen up recruitment and training. ‘We are going to overhaul professional development so existing teachers keep their skills and knowledge up to scratch.’
A pill to beat stress? Hope for cure as scientists discover the protein that causes it
It is not clear how such a drug would be better than existing anxiolytic drugs such as Valium — and removing stress reactions to threat could have its own problems. But it’s only a rodent study so far anyway
A pill that keeps stress at bay could be on the horizon after scientists worked out the brain chemistry that turns a healthy dose of fear into overwhelming anxiety or depression. The breakthrough by researchers at Leicester University could lead to pills that quash such stress-related conditions before they arise.
This would be different from anti-depressants, which are prescribed after a person’s health deteriorates. Treatments which might work when existing drugs fail could also be developed.
The research was inspired by the observation that while most of us experience traumatic events from bereavements to broken hearts, only some people descend into depression or other stress-associated psychiatric disorders.
Experiments detailed in the journal Nature flagged up a protein called neuropsin, which is made in the amygdala, the brain’s ‘fear centre’. In times of stress, the brain makes more neuropsin and this triggers a series of chemical reactions that culminate in a ‘fear gene’ being switched on – and feelings of anxiety.
Blocking the protein in mice stopped them displaying anxiety in stressful situations. The researchers are optimistic that the protein also affects how the human brain copes with life’s troubles.
Dr Pawlak said: ‘Studies in mice revealed that upon feeling stressed, they stayed away from zones in a maze where they felt unsafe. ‘These were open and illuminated spaces they avoid when they are anxious. ‘However, when the proteins produced by the amygdala were blocked the mice did not exhibit the same trait. ‘The behavioural consequences of stress were no longer present.
‘We conclude that the activity of neuropsin and its partners may determine vulnerability to stress.’
Although the experiments were in mice, the researchers are optimistic that the protein also affects how the human brain copes with life’s troubles.
Dr Pawlak cautioned that much more research is necessary but added: ‘We are tremendously excited by these findings. ‘We know that all the members of the neuropsin pathway are present in the human brain. ‘They may play a similar role in humans and further research will be necessary to examine the potential of therapies for controlling stress-related behaviours.
‘Our discovery opens up new possibilities for the prevention and treatment of stress-related psychiatric disorders such as depression and post-traumatic stress disorder.’
Around one in five people experiences some form of anxiety disorder during their life. The researchers said: ‘Stress-related disorders affect a large percentage of the population and generate enormous personal, social and economic impact.
‘It was previously known that some individuals are more susceptible to the detrimental effects of stress than others. ‘Although the majority of us experience traumatic events, only some develop stress-related anxiety disorders such as depression, anxiety or post-traumatic stress disorder. ‘The reasons for this were not clear.’
Do you have ‘global warming fatigue’? Just 25% of Britons think climate change is the most important environmental issue
Britons are suffering from ‘global warming fatigue’, according to a new poll which shows they care less about climate change than most other nationalities. The survey of 1,000 British adults found that just 25 per cent rate man-made climate change as the most pressing environmental problem.
In contrast, half say energy security is the biggest green issue – while 48 per cent are more concerned about their rubbish collections.
Out of 24 countries polled, Britain comes in at third bottom in terms of concern about climate change, the Ipsos Mori survey found. Americans, Australians, French and Japanese are all more bothered about global warming than Britons.
Edward Langley, Ipsos MORI’s Head of Environment Research, said: ‘The public are cautious about climate change. They feel there is a lack of consensus on whether it is man-made and the degree to which it will impact their lives.
‘In contrast, our dependency on fossil fuels is a more immediate and tangible risk that they can get their heads around, and one where they see an obvious need to take action to maintain living standards.’
Around 48 per cent of Japanese – who were surveyed after last month’s earthquake and tsunami – rated climate change as the key environmental issue. Some 40 per cent of Canadians, 38 per cent of Germans, 30 per cent of Australians and 29 per cent of French feel the same.
Concern about man-made climate change fell after two cold winters and the failure of the UN global warming talks. The University of East Anglia leaked email scandal – which showed climate scientists plotting to ignore freedom of information requests about their work – has also affected public opinion.