Public health quango seeks £250K PR team as hospitals shed jobs… while sweary staff get ‘behaviour codes’
A healthcare watchdog plans to spend nearly a quarter of a million pounds on new communications staff – as hospitals prepare to shed thousands of jobs. The Care Quality Commission, which regulates health and social care in England, is advertising for seven roles, including a digital communications content manager and technical web developer.
The quango, which had its powers increased by Health Secretary Andrew Lansley late last year despite a cull of similar bodies, is advertising seven permanent jobs at a combined cost of £231,444 a year at a time when frontline healthcare services face cuts worth billions. The positions, advertised on the NHS Jobs website, will be based at the commission’s Islington HQ in North London.
Successful candidates will report to director of marketing and communications Jill Finney, who is thought to be on a six-figure salary package.
Charlotte Linacre, of the TaxPayers’ Alliance, said: ‘Spending almost a quarter of a million on pointless posts is ridiculous.’
But a spokesman for the CQC stressed it had to ‘ensure good communications with the 25,000-plus health and social care organisations we regulate, and respond to questions from the media’.
Meanwhile, staff at Greater Manchester’s largest hospital trust could have ‘good behaviour’ codes included in their contracts in light of a television expose. Bosses at Pennine Acute Trust are carrying out an investigation after undercover reporters captured nurses at North Manchester General Hospital shouting and swearing about patients as part of a Channel 4 documentary.
They have revealed the investigation is progressing quickly – and have vowed to report any workers found to have behaved in an ‘unacceptable’ manner to professional disciplinary bodies. They are also considering including good behaviour codes in job descriptions and contracts – to outline standards to workers.
Chief executive John Saxby said he had reviewed the footage, aired on the Dispatches programme, and said it highlighted some of the ‘relentless pressures’ on staff.
This month the trust has experienced a 10 per cent increase in accident and emergency attendances and a 12 per cent rise in emergency admissions – described by Mr Saxby as ‘unsustainable’.
Speaking at a trust board meeting, he added: ‘The programme did highlight some of the relentless pressures at North Manchester. ‘Clearly we have got to do some work with primary care trusts and GP consortia about how we can reduce the tidal wave of patients coming in.
‘The programme did show examples of unacceptable behaviour – this is currently under investigation. ‘If we need to refer any incidents to the professional disciplinary body then that will be done.’ Mr Saxby said that the families of every patient featured on the documentary had now been contacted.
He revealed that the trust was also investigating a number of additional complaints received from people about care received at Pennine hospitals in light of the show.
He said the programme showed they need to work on reducing bed-blocking – where patients spent longer in hospital because they have nowhere else to go.
But he said an allegation that patient care was being compromised to meet targets had been investigated and no evidence had been found to support it. He said the claim was ‘entirely unfounded’.
The trust has also invited the health watchdog the Care Quality Commission to visit to review its standards of care following the programme.
The Dispatches: Hospitals Undercover documentary showed two undercover reporters, one posing as a trust volunteer and one as a porter, covertly filming and recording aspects of patient care and hospital life including conversations with and between members of staff.
Footage was also shown of nurses swearing about a patient and watching and shouting at an elderly lady in pain who was struggling to sit up. Another elderly lady, who had problems eating, is also filmed being shouted at by a nurse for not eating quickly enough.
A great Royal occasion
Detractors often speak of the fragility of the British monarchy and predict its demise but on every great Royal occasion we see the falsity of that. The huge enthusiasm with which Prince William and his bride were greeted by a million onlookers in London would surely be the envy of any politician.
Winston Churchill once said: “Not for a thousand years has Britain seen the campfires of an invader”. One consequence is that the British army has retained its traditions. And the splendid uniforms are part of that. We see in the picture above the particularly splendid dress uniform of the Blues & Royals worn by Prince Harry.
It might almost be a comic opera uniform but there is nothing comic about the regiment concerned. It sees active service in war zones and in fact traces its origins all the way back to Oliver Cromwell’s New Model Army. And Prince Harry is no chocolate soldier. Both he and William are members of the British armed forces and Harry is particularly devoted to the army. He loved his posting to the dirt and dust of Afghanistan. And the Blues and Royals is the regiment he joined when he enlisted in the British army.
Prince William, heir in due course to the throne of 16 countries, also enlisted initially in the Blues and Royals but now serves in the Royal Air Force. In the picture above he wears the uniform of the Irish Guards, of which he is honorary Colonel. By wearing that uniform he honours the regiment concerned. Guardsmen will be proud to see THEIR Colonel so prominently honoured.
And also above we see the rather splendid 1902 State Landau in which the couple left Westminster Abbey. I gather that it is not the most comfortable of rides but it gives admirers a good view of those in the carriage and enables them to be clearly seen when they wave back.
It all does my old monarchist heart good. And I was pleased to see the Queen looking well after her recent minor health scare — JR.
The Entrepreneurs’ Princess
From across the pond, I have watched with interest the debate and speculation on the significance of Prince William’s wedding to longtime girlfriend Kate Middleton.
Much has been made of the fact that Kate is a “commoner”; her mother and father started out their careers working as a flight attendant and flight dispatcher for British Airways, respectively. Yet she has known many of the privileges of aristocracy, because her parents built a multimillion-dollar business that supported elite educations for her siblings and her.
Some have asked if Kate will be a “people’s princess,” in the mold of Prince William’s late mother, Diana. But Kate and her family actually embody a noble, if relatively modern, tradition of their own, a tradition of bettering oneself and one’s family while improving the lot of society at the same time.
The tradition that Kate and her parents and siblings embody so well is that of entrepreneurship. For centuries in Britain, commercial activities were looked down upon by many in the aristocracy, whose wealth lay in landownership and who would not deign to dabble in trade. This week’s wedding can be seen as the culmination of a long process of elevating the social status of entrepreneurship itself.
The story of the Middletons’ rise to wealth has been told, but its significance and its implications for British culture and public policy have been little explored.
When Kate was five, her mother, like many aspiring entrepreneurs, saw a niche that could be filled to help others in her situation. As described on the website of the family business, PartyPieces.co.uk, “Carole Middleton founded Party Pieces in 1987 after finding it difficult to source fun, simple party products for her children’s parties.”
Somewhat like successful American firms from Microsoft to Google that had their beginnings in residential garages, Party Pieces started out in a shed in the Middletons’ garden. There, mail orders were taken for boxes with pre-selected party favors to fit a certain theme.
The Middleton’s business really took off with the advent of the Internet, and today, one can go on the web site and order plates, cups and napkins themed from Barbie to the Transformers. If one of the royal duties is to ensure the happiness of subjects, Kate’s family has given her a head start by bringing joy to so many British parents and children.
And happiness through individual initiative is something Kate could encourage once she joins the royal family, by pointing to her family’s entrepreneurial background and championing Britain’s innovative firms, many of which have origins similar to that of Party Pieces. Margaret Thatcher has written that “however pervasive an enterprise culture is, most people are not born entrepreneurs.” But the Middletons, through the story of their success before Kate even met William, will serve as a constant reminder of what enterprising men and women can achieve.
Over the three decades that span the lifetimes of Kate and Prince William, the commercial classes have attained newfound respect in British culture. The idea of ordinary people building successful businesses—a concept often called the “American Dream”—is now idealized in British programs such as BBC’s “Dragons’ Den.”
If the royal family were to utilize Kate’s background to help encourage and spread this culture of entrepreneurship, the effects in Britain—and possibly much of the world—could be incredible. The people of the United Kingdom would be much richer, and not just in material terms. “Earned success gives people a sense of meaning about their lives,” writes the social scientist Arthur Brooks, who is president of the American Enterprise Institute think tank.
Indeed, studies show that in both the U.S. and U.K., many blue- and white-collar workers prefer to have the opportunity to advance, even if this means a less equal income distribution. A study of thousands of British employees by Andrew Clark, associate chair of the Paris School of Economics, found that measures of these workers’ happiness actually rose as their demographic group’s average income increased relative to their own.
These findings suggests that as people see members of their peer group gain wealth—even surpassing them—it gives them hope that they can improve their lot as well. As Mr. Clark put it in his study of British workers, “income inequality . . . need not be harmful for economic growth” if it “contains an aspect of opportunity.”
The Middletons symbolize the opportunity that exists in a free-market system for those who take advantage of it. It is worth noting that they founded Party Pieces during the Thatcher era, when the Conservative government focused on lifting barriers to entrepreneurs through lower taxation, less regulation and privatization. Coincidentally or not, the year Kate’s parents started their business, 1987, was also the year that their longtime employer British Airways was sold off, with shares of stock going to its workers.
Even though Kate’s family has long been in the spotlight due to her relationship with Prince William, recent comments by Carole Middleton show that she still sympathizes with the small entrepreneur. In an interview on the Party Pieces website, she says: “I still work through to the early hours to hit a deadline and never take our success for granted.”
The union of Prince William and Kate has been called a modern royal marriage, and in many ways it is. But it will also fulfill the traditional function of merger of families in a new way. When this couple says their “I dos,” the royal family will officially be wed to the dreams and aspirations of millions of entrepreneurs in the United Kingdom and throughout the world.
New safety laws for herbal medicines
It is absurd to have lower standards for herbal medicine than for ethical medicines
New laws come into force on Saturday that are aimed at protecting consumers from potentially harmful herbal medicines. Under a European directive, herbal medicines on sale in shops will have to be registered. Products must meet safety, quality and manufacturing standards, and come with information outlining possible side-effects.
The Medicines and Health care Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) said there had been 211 applications for approval, with 105 granted so far and the rest still under consideration. Some herbal practitioners fear the move could threaten their businesses.
Commonly used ingredients already registered include echinacea, used against colds, St John’s wort, used by some for depression and anxiety, and valerian, claimed as a natural remedy for insomnia. Research conducted for the MHRA in 2009 showed that 26% of UK adults had taken a herbal medicine in the past two years.
The agency said it is hoping to promote a more cautious approach to using herbal medicines after the study findings found that more than half of people – 58% – believe the products are safe because they are natural.
The agency said there had been a number of health alerts over unlicensed herbal medicines over the years. In February the MHRA issued a warning about the herbal weight loss product Herbal Flos Lonicerae (Herbal Xenicol) Natural Weight Loss Formula after tests showed it contained more than twice the prescribed dose of a banned substance.
Life-extending prostate cancer pill could be available in a year
A pill that gives men with advanced prostate cancer an extra four months of life has come a step closer to being approved for use in Britain.
Zytiga is a hormonal drug that cuts off the source of testosterone, which makes prostate cancer cells grow. Standard hormone treatments for prostate cancer block production of male hormones in the testes, but recent research shows that tumours can produce their own supply, as does the adrenal gland. Zytiga blocks all testosterone generation.
It can be used in up to 80 per cent of patients with aggressive drug-resistant prostate cancer who have run out of options after exhausting a range of anti-hormonal therapies and chemotherapies.
The drug is not yet available for use on the NHS, but makers Johnson & Johnson have applied for licensing approval in Europe that could be granted by the end of this year. That approval looks more likely after U.S. watchdogs at the Food and Drug Administration gave the green light to the drug there nearly two months earlier than expected, following its success in trials.
A trial on almost 800 patients in 13 countries found those taking the drug combined with conventional steroid treatment survived for about 15 months, compared with 11 months on steroids alone. The study was cut short so all patients could be given Zytiga – clinical name abiraterone acetate – after independent monitors determined a clear survival benefit.
Around 250,000 men in the UK are living with prostate cancer, with 37,000 new cases diagnosed each year. It is the biggest cancer killer after lung cancer, with 10,000 men dying from the disease each year.
Zytiga was discovered by British scientists at the Institute of Cancer Research. Professor Johann de Bono, of the ICR said: ‘This news will be incredibly important to prostate cancer patients and their families.’
Coalition accused over £21m education consultants’ bill
A huge education bureaucracy and they still need outsiders to do important tasks?
The Coalition has been accused of wasting at least £21m on education consultants, just as school budgets are cut in the downturn. Teachers’ leaders claimed the payments had been made to just five companies in the last year, despite a Government pledge to slash Whitehall waste.
In some cases, they received the money to oversee the setting up of the Coalition’s flagship academies and “free schools” – institutions run by parents’ groups, charities and private companies independent of local council control.
The National Union of Teachers has now written to Michael Gove, the Education Secretary, condemning the payments, which it says has been made “at a time when school budgets are being squeezed to the limits”.
But the Department for Education hit back today, saying cash for consultants had been dramatically cut this year compared with fees paid under Labour.
The NUT analysed Government spending between April 2010 and February this year and found some £21.7m went on five companies, including EC Harris and Tribal Education.
But the union claimed that consultancy fees paid by the DfE and its associated quangos were likely to be much higher when other private companies are added.
The Government’s school buildings quango, Partnership for Schools, paid a further £5m to just three firms, it emerged, although most of this was for the purchase of land and buildings associated with the free schools policy.
The NUT also said 100 DfE staff were now employed to work on free schools – equivalent to around four per cent of junior civil servants in the department – at a cost of almost £4m.
In a speech to the union’s annual conference in Harrogate on Tuesday, Christine Blower, NUT general secretary, said the money was being spent as millions was slashed from the education budget, including a huge reduction in spending on school buildings and Sure Start children’s centres. She is calling on the Government to reveal how much of this cash has been spent specifically on fees to set up free schools.
David Cameron promised a huge purge on consultants and management fees which ballooned under Labour.
A spokesman for the DfE insisted that overall spending on consultants in the last year was likely to be significantly down on the year before. “Spend on consultants has been slashed under the Coalition Government,” he said.
“In 2009-10 it was over £74m but when final figures for the last financial year are published spend is expected to be significantly reduced. Even then, much of the spend will be leftover commitments from the last administration that are being wound up.”
“This has been done by introducing strict rules on spending ensuring value for money for the taxpayer. We are sure that Christine Blower will be pleased with this huge reduction.”
Yesterday’s show of British institutions at their best hides years of political vandalism that wrecked our constitution
Although this country remains in serious economic trouble, two of our greatest institutions (the monarchy and the Armed Forces) proved yesterday that Britain can still put on a brilliant show when required and captivate a global TV audience. And for a few days at least, London has seemed like the centre of the world again.
At such times, it is customary for the British to feel a self-congratulatory warm glow about the enduring security of our great institutions and how fortunate we are to have such a strong constitutional structure in this country. The truth, I’m afraid, is very different. Underneath all the pomp, our constitution is badly broken.
Yesterday’s wedding obscures a painful fact: the British constitution — which took centuries to evolve — has been all but wrecked by just a few decades of vandalism inflicted by opportunistic politicians from all the main parties. They have been assisted by liberal judges, bien pensant academics and Leftist commentators intent on demolishing a system that actually worked rather well.
Their malevolent handiwork has led to the complete transformation of our constitutional and governing arrangements — with predictably calamitous results.
Britain is no longer self-governing. Huge powers have been transferred to Brussels and our national sovereignty has been signed away to Europe. Many of our laws and regulations are not really made by Parliament in London. They come direct from Brussels and are merely rubber-stamped by supine MPs.
Take employment law, one of the areas where the over-weening EU has been most aggressive. Since Britain signed up to the Social Chapter there has been a slew of anti-enterprise impositions on businesses and an explosion in workers’ rights and the number of costly industrial tribunals. This discourages hiring and the job creation that is so badly needed after a deep recession.
And when it comes to the massive immigration that comes with the EU’s open borders, myriad health and safety rules and environmental edicts (with endless interfering regulations on recycling), Parliament is also powerless.
Even Britain’s right to choose something as basic as its own weights and measures has been lost.Then there’s the sick condition of the ‘United’ Kingdom and the devolution debacle. Separate parliaments or assemblies were given to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland by Labour because it was claimed that this would be enough to satisfy the demands of the separatist local politicians. But already those separatists are back demanding (and getting) more powers.
Although the majority population in England does not have its own parliament, it is forced to subsidise the Scots and Welsh — leading to greatly unfair disparities in the provision of public services.
For example, in Scotland there is free care for the elderly, a long list of NHS-supplied drugs which are denied to English patients as well as free tuition for Scottish and EU students (but, unsurprisingly, not for any English youngsters who might want to study there). Devolution has badly loosened the ties that once bound the UK so strongly together.
The ‘reform’ of the second chamber was a similar Blairite disaster. The ancient House of Lords that combined hereditary peers with law Lords and some appointed experts was not perfect, but it worked well for centuries as a revising chamber. It was swept away, and the place stuffed with political appointees. Reform created a flawed system that was worse than the one it replaced.
At the same time, another great institution — the senior civil service — was degraded and politicised by those in power desperate to alter its composition and make it more politically correct.
However, the mandarin class is not daft and has responded by switching its allegiance to the EU (often taking Europe’s side in arguments with ministers). The civil servants realise that real power now often lies with Brussels bureaucrats and unaccountable European judges.
The recent controversy over prisoners’ voting rights shows their cynical calculation is right. Our elected representatives in the Commons voted against the enfranchising of murderers, but then unelected European judges over-ruled them. Politicians may talk about asserting Parliament’s supremacy, but this is mere posturing and David Cameron knows it.
Meanwhile, our judges in our new Supreme Court (another Blair folly) connive with Europe in its daily interference in our democracy. This follows New Labour foolishly incorporating into law the European Court’s human rights laws. As a result, unaccountable judges use the Court’s laws to issue gagging orders against the Press as they try to create their own privacy laws — something that should be the domain of Parliament.
All these huge changes were presented to voters as being in keeping with the British tradition of a steadily evolving constitution that adapts to new circumstances while keeping the traditional underpinnings intact. But that was a lie.
When Britain joined the European Union — or the European Economic Community as it then was in 1973 — this country suffered an historic loss of power. Under the terms of the Treaty of Rome, for the first time since Henry VIII refused to accept the Pope’s authority, a foreign body was placed above our national Parliament and the Crown.
Until that point, the underlying assumption had been clear. Britain — with a constitutional monarchy, an independent Parliament, accountable law courts and a robust, free press — governed itself. It was on these rocks that our security and great prosperity were built.
But then things started to change. Losing our empire and super-power status in the years after World War II produced something akin to a collective nervous breakdown in parts of the British establishment. For much of the ruling class, the idea of throwing our lot in with the Europeans was seen as the only answer to our problems. Many honourable people (including a misguided Margaret Thatcher) were deceived. What was originally a free trade organisation rapidly became an anti-democratic supra-national monster.
But the most fervent Europhiles — such as Tony Blair — were very cunning. They realised that to make Britain more European they would have to dismantle steadily the traditional structures of government and erode this country’s sense of its own distinctive institutions. This was done under the banner of ‘modernisation’ and ‘Cool Britannia’. Hence, we were given devolution based on the European model, European human rights law was incorporated into British law and there were attempts to ditch the pound and replace it with the euro.
Modernisers such as Nick Clegg have since taken up where Blair left off, seeking to impose all sorts of unnecessary changes to the character of our national life.
The most recent attack has focused on the traditional voting system for elections. Next Thursday is the referendum on whether to replace the traditional ‘first past the post’ system with AV, a system that will make coalitions, where politicians do deals with each other to stay in power, more likely. Mercifully, opinion polls suggest common sense will prevail and voters will decide to keep the traditional electoral system that has served this country so well for years.
Yet even if Clegg is snubbed by voters over AV, he won’t give up and will immediately begin planning his next piece of constitutional vandalism. The House of Lords is in his sights — he wants an elected Lords because it would give the Lib Dems more seats and more power.
It is quite extraordinary that a Tory Prime Minister has allowed the Lib Dems to embark on this wrecking spree — when his own Conservative Party supposedly stands for the defence of the constitution. Yet David Cameron has allowed Clegg his cherished AV referendum and is helping him gerrymander the Lords to the Lib Dems’ advantage.
Indeed, what is most deeply troubling is that none of the political parties seems prepared to defend the little that is left of our constitution, or to set about reclaiming what has been surrendered.
That means that when the inevitable sad day comes and the Queen — who personifies the bulwark defence of this country’s institutions and traditions — is no longer with us, Britain will be in treacherous waters.
Make no mistake: the monarchy itself will be the next target of modernisers and republicans demanding radical change. Who will there be to stop them as they embark on their final big battle in their war to kill off the British constitution?
Patriotic dress banned from British TV
“She’s not a celebrity usually known for her sense of style. And today Daybreak presenter Kate Garraway made something of a fashion blunder as she decided to show her support for the Royal Wedding by stepping out in a plunging Union Jack maxi dress.
The 43-year-old presenter looked delighted with her patriotic outfit as she arrived at the ITV studios this morning.
However, Daybreak’s Entertainment Editor Garraway later tweeted that ITV bosses had ruled the dress was ‘too much’ for her to wear on air.