Urine bottle left on meal table in latest hospital care failures

A urine bottle was left on a patient’s table during mealtime, the latest report into failures of elderly care in hospital discloses.

Another pensioner was classed as being at risk of malnutrition but was allowed to eat just a single spoonful of ice cream one lunchtime without staff taking action.

The failings have been highlighted in the second of a series of unannounced visits to elderly wards in NHS hospitals by the health sector regulator, the Care Quality Commission.

The first batch of reports, published last week, disclosed that some older patients are being prescribed water to ensure they are given enough to drink while others were put to bed at 6pm and ignored by staff.

In the second series of reports, published on Thursday, the watchdog – itself facing questions over its failure to investigate alleged abuse at a care home – says that 10 of the latest 14 hospitals visited by inspectors were meeting legal standards on dignity and nutrition. Two were told to make improvements in order to maintain quality and safety, while a further two were found to have been in breach of requirements.

At Barnsley Hospital in south Yorkshire, the CQC found “moderate concerns” with the requirement to meet patients’ nutritional needs. Inspectors found that staff answered the telephone instead of serving meals, and did not help pensioners wash their hand before eating. “None of the tables were cleaned, before or after the meal and one patient had an empty urine bottle placed on their table alongside their meal during lunch,” the report states.

Nurses appeared not to check how much food patients had eaten nor to offer an alternative meal if the first one was refused. Although several patients had been identified as at risk of malnutrition, they were not given “red trays” as required to ensure their food intake is watched closely.

One patient who had been admitted with weight loss was not eating or drinking enough, but was not being monitored. “This patient’s tray was removed at lunch time with the plate still full of food. We observed the patient at lunchtime. They ate one spoonful of ice cream. We informed the senior nurse that the patient had not eaten, their food intake had not been monitored and a full tray of food had been removed without consulting nursing staff.”

Moderate concerns over nutrition were also found at Whiston Hospital, run by St Helens and Knowsley Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust in the north west. Patients were not always able to wash their hands before eating and on one ward staff did not help elderly people sit up to eat, while one patient was left waiting half an hour before being given help with their meal.

The food “did not look appetising” and not all patients were given special fluids or dietary supplements as required.

There were also minor concerns regarding respect and dignity, with about half of elderly patients in the wards inspected wearing “hospital issue gowns/pyjamas” rather than their own clothes, and not all able to reach bells to attract the attention of staff.

Michelle Mitchell, charity director at Age UK, said: “Every patient in every hospital should be properly fed and treated with dignity. The inconsistencies being revealed by the CQC are unacceptable.”

Juliette Greenwood, chief nurse at Barnsley Hospital, said: “It was disappointing to learn that our standards around the nutritional needs of patients during the spot checks were not as high as we expect them to be. “We welcome the report, which recognised that our own checks had very recently picked up on the issues and that we have good systems in place – but that staff weren’t always following them. “I am very sorry to those patients we let down but want to assure them that our services are considered safe by the CQC and these spot checks do not reflect the overall care and treatment we provide.”


Lawns with Greek statues, a computer suite, hairdressing lessons… inside Britain’s newest holding centre for illegals

Its manicured lawns and gravel paths decorated with stone statues would look at home in even the grandest of rural estates. But Morton Hall is not a plush country pad – it is the Government’s latest centre for foreign detainees awaiting deportation.

The immigration removal centre, in Swinderby, Lincolnshire, will eventually house around 400 men, including former prisoners, illegal immigrants and failed asylum seekers.

New arrivals will be greeted by impressive lawns and extensive gardens, patrolled by a flock of ducks. They will be housed in private rooms with access to television, games consoles and private washing facilities.

Detainees can sign up to lessons in a well-equipped computer classroom and even hairdressing classes in a mock salon. And if they fancy some downtime, they can play football in the grounds, take a walk or simply sit on a bench and enjoy the view.

Even the centre’s menu offers detainees something a bit special, featuring dishes inspired by global cuisine – from Greek feta quiche and Afghani marinated chicken to Nigerian fried plantain and Egyptian falafel.

Immigration Minister Damian Green triggered a furious row last night as he unveiled the centre, a former women’s prison on the site of an old RAF base.

Critics said taxpayers will be angry that their money has been spent on conditions some hard-working families struggle to afford for themselves.

Emma Boon, of the TaxPayers’ Alliance, said the costs of opening and running immigration removal centres ‘need to be kept under control’. She said: ‘Immigration removal centres are for people who have no right to be in the UK. ‘Taxpayers will be angry that their money is being spent on top-of-the-range equipment and grand surroundings like landscaped gardens for those detained.

Tory MP James Clappison, a member of the home affairs committee, also questioned whether the cost of the conditions could be justified. “Of course detainees should be safe and use their time productively before returning home, but this does not require a level of facilities that some hard-working families in the community outside the centre do not have access to themselves’ He said: ‘People should be treated decently and humanely but at the time of public spending constraint that should not extend as far as standards that are beyond the reach of ordinary taxpayers.’

The Government said the new centre would increase the nation’s capacity to hold illegal immigrants and failed asylum seekers to 3,400. Like Colnbrook near Heathrow and Yarl’s Wood on the outskirts of Clapham, Bedfordshire, it holds people with no legal right to be in the UK who refuse to leave. Speaking as he opened Morton Hall, Mr Green said it will ‘help us remove more individuals who have no right to be here’. He said: ‘We all know the present Government inherited a chaotic immigration system. We’re getting to grips with it.’

Officials refused to disclose how much Morton Hall cost to refurbish or operate. An official report into a smaller detention centre, which held just 124 people, found it cost £1.6million every year.

The opening comes after the Prime Minister’s pledge to reduce net migration – those entering the country minus those leaving – to tens of thousands by 2015 was threatened by figures released last week. They revealed net migration hit 242,000 in the year to September 2010, the third highest on record.


Dumb British High School examiners

Impossible maths paper puts university places at risk, say A-level pupils

A-level students fear their university places may be at risk after they were set an ‘impossible’ question in a maths exam.

One of Britain’s biggest exam boards apologised for the blunder yesterday which affected a paper sat by nearly 7,000 students.

A teacher who saw the exam paper spotted the error and alerted the OCR last Friday.

Yesterday furious students flooded social networking sites calling for the exam to be re-run.

The question, which could not be solved, accounted for more than 11 per cent of marks.

The exam board pledged to take the mistake into account, but students said the precious minutes wasted on it meant they failed to reach other parts of the test.

On The Student Room website, one teenager said: ‘They should definitely give us a re-sit.’ Another said: ‘I spent 20 minutes on that question (as it was worth the most marks) and had to rush everything else. I really needed to get an A and now I am scared I won’t even get a B.’

The error centred around a 90-minute ‘decision mathematics’ AS-level exam sat by students in 335 schools and colleges. AS- levels are normally sat in the first year of two-year A-level courses. In the final section, students were presented with a diagram showing a network of tracks in a forest. The exam board failed to calculate the length properly, which meant it failed to tally with their mathematical equation.

An OCR spokesman said: ‘We have several measures in place to ensure candidates are not unfairly disadvantaged as a result of this unfortunate error. ‘Because we have been alerted to this so early, we are able to take this error into account when marking the paper. We will also take it into account when setting the grade boundaries.’ He added: ‘We will be under- taking a thorough review of our quality assurance procedures.’


Beware Malthusians in reasonable clothing

The green critics of population control are just as misanthropic as their condom-promoting opponents. The “consumption bomb” just replaces the “population bomb”

The ambient jazzy, folky music – possibly nicked from a nearby Starbucks – had been turned to mute. The lights were dimmed. And the effect was near instant. The postgraduate-dominated audience under-populating the Bloomsbury Theatre in London was finally settling down in glum anticipation of ‘My vision for the future’, the first public event of ‘Population Footprints’ – a ‘UCL and Leverhulme Trust conference on human population growth and global carrying capacity’.

So, given this current cultural climate, in which it’s almost conventional to view the propagation of the species as an act of self-destruction, what the audience was probably not expecting was the opening gambit of Fred Pearce, environment consultant for the New Scientist, author of Peoplequake, and, most important of all, someone who doesn’t think population growth is much of a problem. ‘We are defusing the population bomb’, he declared. There was no booing. But there was no applause either.

Not that Pearce would mind, of course. He seems to be enjoying making a name for himself as the debunker of overpopulation hype. A few weeks ago, for instance, he took on no less a source of procreation anxiety than the United Nations Population Division (UNPD). The problem for Pearce was that in 2009, the UNPD had estimated that the global population, currently just under seven billion, would reach nine billion by 2050 before levelling off. At the beginning of May, however, it revised its predictions. Now global population was not only going to reach nine billion by 2050, but it was going to keep on rising until it reaches over 10 billion by 2100.

Pearce was not convinced that there was much evidence to support such a revision. In fact, as he points out in Nature magazine, current world population and current global fertility rates are actually lower than the UN predicted they would be at this stage two years ago. So why, contrary to actual population trends, does the UN now envisage a further rise in future fertility rates? None of this makes sense, argues Pearce: women are now having half as many babies as their grandmothers and world fertility has fallen from 4.9 children per woman in the early 1960s to its current level of around 2.45. The only way the UN can come up with such groundless population projections is by assuming that many developed countries currently with fertility rates well below the replacement level of 2.1 will suddenly start, contrary to all expectations, to produce more and more children. As Pearce observes, this assumption has simply been imposed on to the modelling system. Hence the revision ‘looks more like a political construct than a scientific analysis’.

All of which sounds like a rational voice amid the cacophony of overpopulation doom-mongering. This is surely a good thing, right? What could be better than an award-winning science journalist and author calling out the prophets of overcrowding?

The problem is that while Pearce is correct regarding the population-hyping models used by the UNPD, he has not come to destroy the Malthusian core of green-tinged thinking; he has come, whether he knows it or not, to save Malthusianism, not damn it. Save it, that is, from its overexcited champions who see the threat of ‘catastrophic’ population growth as a stick with which to beat people the world over into prophylactic-using submission.

As Brendan O’Neill has argued before on spiked, what sets Pearce apart from his birth-controlling fellow travellers is that he is savvy enough to know that the Malthusian enthusiasm for population control has a thoroughly horrific history. His eighteenth-century master, the Reverend Thomas Malthus, had nothing but contempt for the proliferating (and increasingly radicalised) lower classes. Malthus thought destitution and starvation were happy correctives to there just being too damn many of Them. The late nineteenth century saw a rise in the popularity of eugenics, a surge that culminated in some of the nastiest proposals and practices of the twentieth century. In every case, these Malthus-referencing, population-fiddling ideas have exemplified man’s inhumanity to man. And no wonder. Interpreting social and economic problems, from unemployment to food shortages, in terms of human reproduction means that the solutions must also take a biological, naturalised form – whether that’s contraception, sterilisation or extermination.

Pearce knows this. He knows that the current vogue for the idea of overpopulation has the potential to be bad PR for environmentalism. As he admitted last week, the notion of ‘global carrying capacity’ does have a tendency to turn into Third World bashing. Enter United Nations special adviser Jeffrey Sachs, whose recent response to the UNPD’s revised population projection for Nigeria captured Pearce’s fear: ‘It is not healthy’, Sachs said, adding: ‘Nigeria should work towards attaining a maximum of three children per family.’ The reported retort from one Nigerian woman was completely understandable: ‘[The UN] should try to advise the government how to make the lives of Nigerians better, not telling Nigerians not to have children – that is not their business.’ Or take the comments of two university health lecturers in America who lamented of Africa: ‘even Uganda — with one of the highest numbers of AIDS cases in sub-Saharan Africa — is projected to almost triple its population by 2050’. That AIDS can be seen as a population check, albeit an unsuccessful one, is testament to the willingness of the demography-obsessed to see anything that limits population numbers as a Good Thing.

So, seeing human reproduction as the source of social and economic problems, as an increasingly vociferous number of people in the West do, means that population and reproductive habits become the locus of the solution. And as Pearce recognises, this is an approach that historically has had ugly results. But Pearce does not really jettison Malthus. He just wants to excise the bits that would make even the meanest liberal choke on their organic leeks, you know, the bits that are a bit racist, a bit cruel, a bit, well, illiberal. And this is the point that he performs his sleight of hand: he flips his Malthusian emphases, from the number-of-people side of the equation to the other, number-of-resources side. Hence his doom-mongering comeback at last week’s event: ‘we haven’t even begun to defuse the real threat – the consumption bomb’.

That’s right; it’s not that there are too many people, it’s that there are too few resources. The limits that the unabashedly Malthusian ascribe to population are ascribed by the surreptitiously Malthusian to resources. It doesn’t seem to matter that the supposed limits to resource-use have been transgressed time and time again by advances in human productivity, from the discovery that coal could be used not just for jewellery but for energy creation, to the so-called ‘green revolution’ in agriculture during the 1960s and 1970s. For Pearce, as with the environmentalist cohorts he wants to save from open Malthusianism, socio-economic limits appear so natural that the only future he can envisage is one in which we adjust to those limits. Or as he put: ‘It’s the world’s consumption patterns that we need to fix, not the world’s reproductive habits.’

The thing is, we – human beings – are not the problem. In fact, I’d confidently wager that we’re the only species on the planet capable of coming up with solutions. And by solutions, that does not mean sacrificing either a portion of our number to misery and death or demanding that another portion of humanity restricts its material aspirations. For those are not solutions, they are the products of the exhausted consciousness of an elite that cannot envisage the future except in terms of decline and disaster.


British charity is wrong about food prices

Questioning Oxfam is a bit like questioning Bambi. But if its claims risk creating hunger, they need to be addressed. In its new report, Growing a Better Future, Oxfam pleads for more government intervention to alleviate rising food prices. It predicts food demand will increase by 70% by 2050, and food production only by 1% by 2020. Throw in global warming and you’ve got enough cataclysmic predictions to make a few headlines.

Predictions linking scarcity to calamity are old hat – the Club of Rome’s 1972 Limits to Growth report springs to mind. As a good Catholic boy I was taught this by my Religious Education teacher in school. (I also know all about the ringing success of Julius Nyerere’s communist villages from the same source.) The Limits to Growth predicted the imminent collapse of life on earth because of rising demand and no production increase. Sounds familiar? It even came up with years in which certain raw materials would run out. Didn’t you know that oil ran out in 1992? Today’s report by Oxfam proves that doomsday neo-Malthusianism has not gone away.

Contrast the prophets of doom with the progressive optimism of free marketeers. Leaving people free leads to ever greater inventions, ever increasing production, and an ever improving standard of living for the multitudes. And yes, it applies to food production, too.

The free market feeds the world. Market prices are key: when food prices go up, people switch to alternatives or re-arrange their priorities; and investors are incentivised to increase production. It is the best method to allocate scarce resources in the most efficient manner for the greatest number of people. Yes, it is as simple as that.

Drought? The market ships the food. Poverty? The market produces cheap food in abundance. Increased food prices? Entrepreneurs all over the world jump on the band-wagon and increase food production to make some money, which makes the price go down.

Oxfam believes government intervention can do better. State intervention in food production has been tried before – in Soviet Russia and Mao’s China, where it was not exactly a roaring success. But when interventionists are on the attack no historical facts must stand in the way. Oxfam pleads for more state aid to small farmers. They seem uninterested in such trifles as economies of scale or efficiency. But they should be: relying on small farmers to provide the world with food guarantees worldwide hunger.

The Oxfam report calls for transparency in commodities and regulation of futures markets. But futures markets are precisely where farmers can insure themselves against a bad harvest! Commodities markets are where enterprising individuals take risks and make or lose money in the business of providing food when and where there is demand. Multiple producers guarantee that there is never a monopoly.

The report calls for controls on the fluctuation of prices. Price controls have never worked, and always create shortages: producers are simply not incentivised to produce anymore. Price controls dry up supply and create a black market where the poorest are even worse off.

However, on one point Oxfam is right: it wants to end policies promoting bio-fuel. This is a form of government intervention which subsidizes one sector, energy, at the expense of another, food. This state intervention should indeed be abolished, so we can return to the only successful method to feed the world: the free market price mechanism.

It’s sad that people whose business it is to alleviate hunger and poverty hark back to the failed interventionism of yesteryear. There is an alternative: freeing up people by introducing free foreign ownership, allowing free trade, and abolishing all agricultural subsidies.



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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