Diary of a death without dignity: Daughter’s harrowing account of her mother’s decline after a routine NHS hip operation

Joanna Slater chronicles her mother Kay’s agonising six-month decline after a routine hip op – at the hands of an NHS where many have simply forgotten how to care…

A devastating report last week revealed hundreds of elderly patients are dying of dehydration on NHS hospital wards. The Care Quality Commission also found patients were malnourished and frequently complained they were spoken to in a ‘condescending and dismissive’ manner.

The news came as no surprise to Joanna Slater. When her otherwise fit and healthy 84-year-old mother Kay Klein was admitted to hospital for a routine hip operation in July 2007, everyone assumed she would be out in a matter of weeks. In fact, she would die in that same hospital – which we cannot name for legal reasons – six months later.

Convinced that her mother was receiving inadequate care, Joanna decided to keep a diary detailing every moment of her hospital stay. Now, three years after her mother’s death, Joanna, an office administrator from Borehamwood, Hertfordshire, has published her account as an online blog. Here, in an extract, she describes the agony of the last six months of her mother’s life.

JULY 18: It’s the night before Mum goes into hospital for her hip operation – she’d had a hip replacement about 20 years ago and it had been giving her trouble recently – and she takes my sisters and me out for dinner. She has her favourite meal, minted lamb and roast potatoes with a glass of wine. We laugh about how she’ll be able to run a marathon after her operation.

My father Eddie died 13 years ago and Mum values her independence. She worked as a manageress in the women’s clothing department of Selfridges until she was in her early 70s and has always taken such pride in her appearance.

You would never believe she was 84 – she looks years younger – and even now she won’t go out without her hair and make-up done. She wants to be able to drive her car to the shops, go out for lunch with her friends, wear heels again – do all those things she once took for granted before her hip pain started again.

JULY 20: Mum is nervous about the operation but her consultant assures her it will be fine. Mum smiles and says: ‘I know I am in good hands.’ After the operation, Mum is in good spirits. The doctors say they’re pleased with how it went.

AUGUST 1: I’m very worried as Mum has been in hospital for nearly two weeks but doesn’t seem to be improving. She has been given physiotherapy but is still in constant pain and cannot walk. Her appetite is suffering, too. It’s hard to believe this is the same woman who loves lunching with her friends and cooking and baking cakes for her family.

AUGUST 3: Bad news. An X-ray shows that Mum’s hip is dislocated. No wonder she has been in so much pain. It means she’ll need a second operation. Worse still, I’m told she now has a problem with her kidneys and can’t have the second operation until it’s sorted. What on earth has gone wrong?

AUGUST 4: I’m shocked to see Mum has been put on a saline drip for her kidneys. Trying to find a doctor is a joke and the nurses don’t tell you anything. I feel so helpless and Mum is very anxious.

AUGUST 7: The kidney specialist is now furious because apparently Mum’s notes state that the saline drip should have come off – but it hasn’t. She is taken off the drip but is now breathless due to the excess fluid created by the drip. The doctor says she might have to go on dialysis and she’s given an oxygen mask to help her breathe.

AUGUST 8: I arrange a meeting with Mum’s consultant. How could her hip become dislocated days after the operation? Why did she have to wait two weeks for an X-ray when she was in so much pain? Why was the saline drip still on Mum’s medical notes when they knew that she had too much fluid?

The consultant doesn’t give me a straight answer to anything. That evening, Mum is very distressed. I ask her if she wants to watch TV but she has no interest in it. She must feel bad if she doesn’t even have the patience to watch EastEnders.

AUGUST 11: Mum’s had her second hip operation and she is transferred to the Renal Ward for dialysis sessions. The alternative, in the doctor’s words, is that ‘it will be curtains for her’. I’m devastated. I still don’t understand where this kidney problem has come from.

AUGUST 13: Mum was on dialysis for two hours today. She is irritable and angry. She can’t get up and has to use a bedpan, which she sometimes tips over. She has to be washed by the nurses, and sometimes it’s a male nurse. She’s been robbed of her dignity and has aged years in the month she has been in hospital.

AUGUST 19: Mum seems to be deteriorating rapidly. She is on antibiotics for a nasty chest infection. She tells me she’s coming out of hospital in three days’ time. That breaks my heart. I don’t think she realises she can’t even walk; if she were to stand up on her own she would fall over as the muscles in her legs are so weak.

AUGUST 30: I arrive to find Mum very distressed. She tells me she asked for a bedpan but no one came and, unfortunately, she messed the bed. The staff took more than an hour to clean her up. She was so embarrassed and felt degraded. They are shortstaffed but it’s no excuse.

SEPTEMBER 4: Mum had an upset stomach today and soiled her nightdress. After cleaning her up, the nurses just threw her nightdress back in the cupboard by her bed. How disgusting. Now I know how germs spread in hospitals.

SEPTEMBER 18: I didn’t think things could get any worse. I was wrong. Mum has been diagnosed with the hospital bug Clostridium difficile (C. diff). And doctors say if her kidneys don’t improve, she’ll have to be on dialysis three times a week for life.

OCTOBER 10: Today was Mum’s 85th birthday. I had the brightest balloons I could find delivered to her room to try to make the day special. She put on a brave face but she’s very sick. This is the first time ever that Mum has looked her age. I can’t believe that less than three months ago she was joking about running a marathon. Mum always hated people knowing how old she was – she never wanted to be what she called a ‘doddery old lady’ – and even on her 80th birthday she refused to let us throw a party as it would reveal her true age. That seems so long ago now.

OCTOBER 11: Mum isn’t eating and just sleeps all day. She’s so thin and the doctors have suggested we insert a feeding tube. Today she refused her medication. I gave them to her by telling her that they were her hay fever tablets. When the nurse came to insert the feeding tube, Mum refused. I think she’s giving up. I can’t believe the woman I see in front of me is my glamorous mother. She hasn’t even had her hair washed since she was admitted to hospital.

OCTOBER 26: Haven’t been able to see Mum for five days as the ward is quarantined after an outbreak of diarrhoea. I got the shock of my life when I saw her. She looked as if she had come out of Belsen. Her face was white, the rims of her eyes were bright red and her skin was peeling off in chunks. They think she’s had an allergic reaction to her medication. I had to fight back tears.

OCTOBER 27: Mum has good and bad days but her mind slips in and out of reality. Quite often when we are leaving she asks us to turn the light off in the kitchen and lock the door after us. She is extremely weak and thin and in constant pain from bed sores.

NOVEMBER 1: To my horror I walked into Mum’s room today and found her slumped in the chair with her head on the table and her dinner in her hair. She was crying ‘Call the police, get me out of here!’ – God knows how long she had been left like that. I ran out in tears shouting for the nurse to help Mum get back in bed and clean her up, but no one came for half an hour. I helped the nurse to wash her and then stayed for hours just stroking her face and cuddling her.

NOVEMBER 2: I made a formal complaint to the hospital. I’m appalled by the state of the NHS. The wards are understaffed and they have too many patients to look after. My mother is a human being but she has lost her dignity.

NOVEMBER 4: I walked in and Mum was vomiting in her sleep. If I hadn’t been there she would have choked to death. The C. diff infection had cleared but is now back again. They say she doesn’t have much time left.

NOVEMBER 27: Tonight Mum calmly told me that she had accepted she was going to die but would always be with us. I went to the bathroom and cried my eyes out. When I left, Mum went into the most wonderful peaceful sleep. She was smiling.

NOVEMBER 30: I ask the doctor about Mum’s life expectancy and she tells me people can live up to 30 years on dialysis. Why are the doctors treating me like a fool? My mother is 85. Even if she wasn’t on dialysis she wouldn’t live another 30 years.

DECEMBER 10: All dialysis is doing is prolonging Mum’s life and adding to her suffering. She won’t get better and we decide with the doctors to withdraw treatment. If she were to stay on dialysis, what quality of life would she have?

She can’t walk or feed herself, she is confused and in constant pain. We’re told that once Mum stops dialysis she will slip into a coma some time between eight and 40 days later, then pass away peacefully. No matter how prepared you think you are, it still comes as a terrible shock. I feel sick it’s come to this but I know this is what Mum would want.

DECEMBER 28: Mum sleeps most of the day now and is definitely deteriorating. It breaks my heart that our mother will never feel the sun on her face again.

JANUARY 1: When I arrived at the hospital today Mum was breathing heavily and her skin was grey. Then she started to be sick. I called for the male nurse. He gave me a bowl then just walked away, saying he was too busy to see her. What on earth would have happened if I hadn’t been there?

JANUARY 8: I got the call I’d been dreading today – Mum has taken a turn for the worse. The drive to the hospital was the longest half hour I’ve ever had. When I arrived, Mum was gasping for breath. My sisters and I sat with her as she slowly slipped away. Our mother took one more final breath and passed away at 6.15pm. Goodbye, my darling, till we meet again.

JANUARY 28: I receive a letter from the hospital. They offer their condolences and attempt to address my concerns. Apparently blood tests revealed Mum had abnormal kidney function, but the junior doctors on the ward didn’t bring this to the attention of their superiors.

They admit Mum’s kidney problems could have been exacerbated by the painkillers she was on after the operation. They say that, as a result of my complaint, they have reviewed procedures. This gives me little comfort.

Mum went in for a routine hip operation. She wasn’t unwell. It wasn’t her time. If it wasn’t for the poor care she received, Mum might be with us today.


Emissions For Me But Not For Thee

Meet Britain’s new anti-tax activists: government-funded scientists researching low-carbon technology and the union that represents them

This least likely of lobbies is fighting for exemptions from the government’s new “carbon reduction commitment,” a cap-and-trade scheme targeting those industries that are not already subject to Britain’s and Europe’s other anti-carbon laws. The new regime will hit banks, hospitals, fire stations, schools, hotels, and thousands of other organizations whose annual electricity bills top roughly £500,000. To the dismay of those same groups that have spent years pushing for cap-and-tax, it will also include research facilities working to develop low-carbon energy sources.

All these groups will have to pay £12 per ton of CO2 that they emit in excess of their government-mandated limits. Whitehall expects the rule to yield nearly £1 billion annually in additional revenue, which is almost as much as Britain spends every year subsidizing low-carbon technology. But the Prospect union, which represents some 50,000 scientists and engineers, is now lobbying for a carve-out that would exempt carbon-generating activity from the tax, if the activity aids the low-carbon cause.

“Otherwise this means they can’t do their research to the same extent, their experimental work to the same extent, because of the additional financial cost they now face,” Sue Ferns, head of research at Prospect, told us yesterday.

That’s a decent summary of the effects of all taxes on all industries. So why not scrap cap-and-tax for everyone? Because, as Ms. Ferns put it, low-carbon research contributes so directly to “the public good.” While one could make the same argument for many other activities, Ms. Ferns also notes that much low-carbon research would be impossible on a low-carbon diet.

A case in point is Oxfordshire’s Culham Centre for Fusion Energy, where research into zero-carbon energy requires one of the world’s largest fusion reactors—and a lot of electricity. The lab is now facing hundreds of thousands of pounds in additional costs to pay for its emissions, which are unavoidable given the current state of technology and the nature of the lab’s work.

It’s hard to miss the irony of a tax hitting organizations trying to accomplish precisely what the tax is meant to encourage. Given that Britain’s low-carbon research projects receive the overwhelming majority of their funding from the government to begin with, would it not make more sense to just decrease public subsidies to such research?

Little surprise, Prospect doesn’t like that prospect one bit.


You want louts punished? That makes you a ‘nasty extremist’ in today’s Britain

I regret to inform you that you are an extremist, bonkers, a spittle-flecked member of the lunatic fringe. That is because you agree with me that Wayne Bishop, whose triumphantly smirking, selfish face looks out at us from amid his terrifying brood of children, ought to be breaking rocks on Dartmoor instead, and to hell with his ‘right’ to a family life.

Bishop is a burglar. He is also a menacing lout who badly needs to learn some lessons in manners, but never will.

We’ve all seen faces like that and learned to cross the street, or shift down the bus, to avoid them when we see them coming. Some people, and God help them, cannot avoid them because they live next to them.

Bishop is the sort of person the law, the police and the prisons were invented to deal with and who – in a sharp break with normal practice – was actually locked up.

As the Ministry of Injustice finally admitted last week, it is harder by far to get into prison than it is to get into university.

Here are the figures, which should be tattooed on the foreheads of every member of the Cabinet so we are constantly reminded of how useless they all are: ‘96,710 criminals sentenced last year for more serious “indictable” offences had 15 or more previous crimes against their name. They included violent muggers, burglars and drug dealers.

‘Of those, only 36 per cent – around 34,600 offenders – were given immediate custody.’ So even after 15 or more previous offences, they won’t put most of them away.

So it’s almost an irrelevance that Bishop has been let out of prison in the name of his Human Wrongs. It is amazing that he was inside in the first place.

You are (for the moment) allowed to laugh at this, or to complain about it. But if, like me, you actually want to do anything about it, then you become an extremist, bonkers, spittle-flecked, lunatic etc.

Because against you, you will find all three major parties, most especially the treacherous, slippery and dishonest Tories, the BBC, the legal profession, the police and the Church of England.

They believe the system that allows Wayne Bishop and his many friends to smirk at you while they live off you is a good system. They think you are cruel, crude, outrageous and uncivilised to want a justice system that punishes bad people swiftly in ways they won’t forget.

Well, Wayne Bishop is the result of all their compassion and kindness and, as I grow older and nastier, I can’t help wishing that the people who created him could be forced to go and live next door to him for the rest of their natural lives. But then, I’m an extremist.

And if you hate the way people such as Wayne Bishop are caressed by our society, why do you keep voting for the Tories who help to caress him, and do nothing
to rescue you from him and from people like him?


Former British magistrate cleared of rape but facing bankruptcy

An outrageous conviction after a false rape accusation cannot be remedied at law?

For seven years he had served as a magistrate, a pillar of the community handing down sentences in Southampton magistrates court. So when Tony Hunt had a brief fling with a married colleague he knew that, although it might have been wrong, it was not against the law.

Little did he know that seven years later he would be accused of rape by that same woman – and his life would be turned upside down. The “attack” was reported to police not by the alleged victim but by one of her friends, another colleague, who at the time was being investigated over disciplinary matters by Mr Hunt, then a senior traffic warden.

Hampshire police persuaded the “victim”, a special constable with the force, to give evidence. Hunt was arrested, charged and found guilty of rape at Winchester crown court in 2003 for the “offence” in 1995. He was sentenced to four years in prison.

Mr Hunt, from Blandford St Mary in Dorset, launched an appeal with fresh evidence to back up his claim that, after he had been on duty at the Fordingbridge country show, the woman had invited him into her home for a cup of tea and consented to sex.

New witnesses said that his accuser had been content to be in his company after the supposed “rape” and did not even change her shifts to avoid working with him. The appeal court in London also found that the trial judge had misdirected the jury. After two years behind bars, his conviction was quashed and he was a free man, innocent in the eyes of the law.

But his ordeal was far from over. When he applied to the Home Office for compensation for the two years he had spent in jail, his claim was rejected, in June 2006, because he had not proved “beyond reasonable doubt” that there had been a miscarriage of justice.

Determined to make clear his innocence, he launched a legal case for malicious prosecution against the woman he believed had concocted the allegations against him, the “victim”, named only as AB.

Mr Hunt, who was sacked from his job after his conviction and has not worked since, had to remortgage the family home, use savings and take out loans to fund his legal battle, which was based on a 1995 House of Lords ruling.

But in October 2009, to his dismay, the case was thrown out by three civil appeal judges who ruled that AB was not the “prosecutor” and therefore could not be sued for malicious prosecution. “I was devastated,” Mr Hunt said.

Lord Justice Sedley, sitting with Lords Justice Wall and Moore-Bick, said the prosecution was the responsibility of the police and the Crown Prosecution Service.

There was more bad news to come and today, at the age of 69, Mr Hunt – and his wife Lynn, and their 35-year-old son Paul, who have stuck by him throughout – are mired in a legal nightmare that has brought the family to the brink of financial ruin.

Hogan Lovells, the international law firm that acted for AB, is seeking nearly £500,000 costs from Mr Hunt including £80,000 AB spent on lawyers from other firms before Lovells took up the civil case.

The law firm had initially acted pro bono – free of charge – but after four months, in June 2008, switched to a “conditional fee arrangement” (CFA). This meant that although no fees would be charged to Mrs AB it could claim back its fees from Mr Hunt if he lost the case. The fees claimed would exclude the work carried out before the CFA came into effect.

The firm was voted runner-up for the 2010 Wig and Pen prize, awarded by London law societies, for its pro bono work on the Hunt case.

A spokesman for the firm said any money recovered from Mr Hunt would be given to AB to cover costs she incurred with her original lawyers, and any money due to the firm would be given to charity – although he declined to say which charity ahead of the hearing.

Mr Hunt is contesting their claim for the costs which will be decided at a hearing at Cliffords Inn in London this week (June 9/10). He said: “I feel disgusted. It is scandalous that Lovells can change their mind. “I spent two years in prison as an innocent man and now they are seeking over £400,000 and trying to bankrupt me. “I have felt suicidal at times. We are all at our wit’s end.”

Mr Hunt’s solicitor, Stephen Taylor, of Buckinghamshire-based law firm Coyle, White Devine. said: “Mr Hunt is an innocent man who has been living in a nightmare for the past nine years.”

The case has also sparked a political controversy. Questions are being asked about the role of Vera Baird, the solicitor general in the then Labour government, and a supporter of AB. Mrs Baird said the ruling against Mr Hunt in the malicious prosecution case was “good news for the courageous Mrs AB, for women and for the criminal justice system” because it would encourage women to come forward without fear of being sued for damages if the alleged attacker was eventually acquitted.

The verdict also means that if a man is wrongly accused of rape by a woman, he can bring a case to a civil court only if he can prove beyond reasonable doubt that she perjured herself in a criminal case.

In a Radio 4 interview in November 2008, defending anonymity for complainants in rape cases, Mrs Baird said: “The point … is to avoid the shame, the guilt of having to expose that she had been treated in this way and having to be challenged about whether she consented or not.”

Robert Walter, the Conservative MP for North Dorset, who is backing Mr Hunt, said he would ask Dominic Grieve, the current Attorney General, to investigate Mrs Baird’s role and examine whether she had in any way abused her position by allegedly asking Lovells to take up AB’s case.

Mr Walter said the law firm should not pursue Mr Hunt for costs “since they were doing the work pro bono and he was acquitted in the criminal case. He also had a strong civil case, including fresh evidence that was ruled to be inadmissible by the judge.”

Lord Newby, a Liberal Democrat peer, wrote to the law firm asking them to drop the action – but it refused. He wrote: “If you were successful … you would not only effectively bankrupt Mr Hunt – an innocent man – but would be doing so on the basis of what appears to be a cynical and unethical approach to business.”

Another extraordinary aspect of the case is that both parties were initially reluctant to take action against each other. AB did not come forward with her rape allegation until she was contacted by detectives seven years after the incident, following the complaint to police by her friend who was being investigated by Mr Hunt over expenses and sick pay claims.

In another twist, following a complaint from Mr Hunt, the Independent Police Complaints Commission has asked Hampshire police to investigate an allegation that a prosecution witness in the original trial committed perjury. The CPS has also been asked to investigate claims that it withheld crucial evidence from the first trial in 2003 that did not come to light until 2008.


British Christians take prejudice row to European court

The Government will be forced to say whether it backs the rights of Christians to wear the cross and opt out of diversity legislation as part of a landmark legal case.

European judges have ordered ministers to make a formal statement on whether it believes Christians’ rights have been infringed by previous decisions in the British courts, which have repeatedly dismissed their right to dress and act according to their beliefs.

The move by the European Court in Strasbourg is because Christians who believe they have suffered discrimination for their beliefs are taking a landmark legal fight the court.

Four Christians leading the pivotal new challenge include Nadia Eweida, the British Airways worker who mounted a legal action after being barred from wearing a cross around her neck. Their cases have been selected by the European Court as of being of such legal significance that they be examined further.

Once ministers have responded the court will decide whether to have full hearings on them.

The four new cases, which come from a range of Christian denominations, could lead to a final legal answer on how religious beliefs must be balanced against equality laws designed to prohibit discrimination against minority religions and other groups such as homosexuals.

The other applicants to the European Court of Human Rights include Lillian Ladele, a former registrar who objected to conducting homosexual civil partnership ceremonies because of her faith. It led to disciplinary action by Islington council in north London, where she had worked for 17 years.

Gary McFarlane, a Christian relationship counsellor, has also applied to Strasbourg after he was sacked by a Relate, the counselling service, for refusing to give sex therapy to homosexual couples.

The final applicant is Shirley Chaplin, a former nurse from Exeter, who was barred from her job in a hospital for wearing a cross.

Andrea Minichiello Williams, the founder and director of the Christian Legal Centre, which is supporting two of the applicants, said: “These cases are massively significant on every front.

“There seems to be a disproportionate animosity towards the Christian faith and the workings of the courts in the UK has led to deep injustice.

“If we are successful in Strasbourg I hope the Equalities Act and other diversity legislation will be overturned or overhauled so that Christians are free to work and act in accordance with their conscience. “David Cameron now needs to put his money where his mouth is.”

Mrs Minichiello Williams added: “People with orthodox views on sexual ethics are excluded from employment because they don’t fit in with the equalities and diversity agenda. It is this which we want to see addressed. Such injustice cannot be allowed to continue.”

In Mrs Eweida and Mrs Chaplin’s cases, the court asked the British government: “In each case, did the restriction on visibly wearing a cross or crucifix at work amount to an interference with the applicant’s right to manifest her religion or belief, as protected by Article 9 [the right to freedom of religion] of the Convention?”

Earlier this year the European Court ruled that schools have a right to display a crucifix on classroom walls, after an application was brought by Roman Catholics in Italy.

The decision appeared to set European human rights law at odds with British courts, where all four applicants in the new round of cases have lost on appeal.

Mrs Chaplin was banned from working on wards by Royal Devon and Exeter NHS Trust after she failed to hide the cross she wore on a necklace chain, even though she had worn the symbol every day since her confirmation and throughout her 31-year nursing career.

The 55-year-old was supported in her battle by senior Anglicans, who claimed Christians are being persecuted in Britain.

Lord Carey, the former Archbishop of Canterbury, and six current and former Anglican bishops wrote to The Sunday Telegraph in support of Mrs Chaplin when her case was heard by an employment tribunal last year.

They expressed their deep disquiet at examples of Christians being “treated with disrespect” while followers of other faiths are treated far more sensitively. “We are deeply concerned at the apparent discrimination shown against Christians and we call on the Government to remedy this serious development,” they said in their letter.

The bishops said it was “deeply disturbing” that the NHS trust’s uniform policy permitted exemptions for religious clothing, such as Muslim headscarves, but appeared to regard the cross as “just an item of jewellery”.

Mrs Eweida’s case against BA dates back to 2006 when she was suspended for refusing to take off the cross which she regards as a personal expression of her faith. The 60-year-old, from Twickenham, south-west London, is a Coptic Christian who argued that BA allowed members of other faiths to wear religious garments and symbols – such as the Sikh turban and the Muslim hijab – but she had been sent home without pay for insisting on displaying her cross.

BA later changed its uniform policy but Mrs Eweida lost her case at the Court of Appeal and in May last year was refused permission to take her fight to the Supreme Court.

The application to the European Court says of Mr McFarlane’s case: “He holds a deep and genuine belief that the Bible states that homosexual activity is sinful and that he should do nothing which directly endorses such activity.”

Mr McFarlane, 50, claimed unlawful discrimination he was sacked by Relate after refusing to give sex therapy to homosexual couples, but the tribunal upheld the employers’ decision.

Bristol-based Mr McFarlane, who regularly attends both Pentecostal and Anglican services, said at the time: “If I were a Muslim, this would not have happened, but Christians seem to have fewer and fewer rights.”

Mr McFarlane and Mrs Chaplin are represented by Paul Diamond, a leading human rights barrister.

Miss Ladele, who joined the council in 1992 and became a registrar in 10 years later, told appeal judges that she could not carry out such civil partnership ceremonies “as a matter of religious conscience”. She claimed she suffered bullying and ridicule as a result of her views and said she had been harassed and discriminated against by the council.

But Lord Neuberger, the Master of the Rolls sitting with two other senior judges at the Court of Appeal, ruled in December 2009 that Labour’s 2007 Sexual Orientation Regulations – which make it illegal to refuse to serve someone on grounds of their sexual orientation – trump the rights of religious believers. “It is simply unlawful for Miss Ladele to refuse to perform civil partnerships,” he said.


Gormless British graduates need more time at the university of life? They lack basic workplace skills, claims study

Employers believe too many graduates are unfit for the workplace, according to a study. They lack skills in communication, problem solving, presentation, customer relations and even punctuality.

Bosses believe all universities should be required to teach employment skills as part of degree courses, say researchers.

Universities were also urged to set up more work experience placements and internships for students to ensure they don’t join the dole queue when they graduate.

The study, commissioned by the education charity Edge and carried out by Glasgow University, highlighted a ‘notable majority’ unable carry out duties in the workplace.

It warned of a systematic failure to ‘promote employability across higher education.’

The report follows the publication of statistics which show the number of jobless graduates rocketed to a 15-year high in 2010.

A fifth were out of work in the third quarter of last year which was double the number when the recession began.

The latest study shows one in six employers is unhappy with graduate ‘skills and competencies’ when they apply for jobs.

It says:’Employers are frustrated that higher education courses do not meet their needs,’ says the report.

‘Employers expect graduates to demonstrate a range of skills and attributes that include team-working, communication and often managerial abilities or potential.’

Around 40 universities run programmes where students gain official recognition if they complete 100 hours of voluntary work, job placements or carry out extra-curricular activities.

The report says degrees should be more tailored towards the needs of businesses.


New British university to rival Oxbridge will charge £18,000 a year

Subtext: A way for rich families to buy a university place for their kids

A group of the world’s leading academics have launched a new British university which they hope will rival Oxford and Cambridge, it was announced today.

New College of the Humanities (NCH) will charge fees of £18,000 a year and offer the “highest-quality” education to “gifted” undergraduates, according to its creators.

The privately-funded independent seat-of-learning will be based in Bloomsbury, central London, and open in September 2012. It will initially offer eight undergraduate humanities degrees taught by some of the globe’s most prominent intellectuals, college officials said.

Professor AC Grayling, the philosopher who will be the college’s first Master, secured millions of pounds of funding from investors to set up the institution which has been likened to America’s elite liberal arts colleges. He said: “At NCH we believe in the importance of the humanities and excellence in education. “Our priorities at the College will be excellent teaching quality, excellent ratios of teachers to students, and a strongly supportive and responsive learning environment. “Our students will be challenged to develop as skilled, informed and reflective thinkers, and will receive an education to match that aspiration.”

The college claims to offer a “new model of higher education for the humanities in the UK” and will prepare undergraduates for degrees in Law, Economics and humanities subjects including History, Philosophy and English literature.

Students will also take three “intellectual skills” modules in science literacy, logic and critical thinking and applied ethics. Practical professional skills to prepare them for the world of work including financial literacy, teamwork, presentation and strategy will also be taught.

College chiefs say students will receive a “best in class education”, with one-to-one tutorials, more than 12 contact hours a week and a 10/1 student to teacher ratio.

Prof Grayling said that budget cuts and dwindling resources are likely to limit both quantity and quality of teaching in the UK, leaving the fabric of society poorer as a result. He hopes the college – a registered charity – will counteract this. “Our ambition is to prepare gifted young people for high-level careers and rich and satisfying lives,” he added.

The 14 professors behind the project include evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins and eminent historian Sir David Cannadine. All will teach.

NCH chairman Charles Watson said: “Higher education in the UK must evolve if it is to offer the best quality experience for students and safeguard our future economic and intellectual wealth. “New College offers a different model – one that brings additional, private sector funding into higher education in the humanities when it is most needed, and combines scholarships and tuition fees.”

He added: “As well as securing the highest-quality education for hundreds of students, we believe an independent university college, established right in the heart of London, will contribute to the long-term economic welfare of the capital, attracting students and professors who are contributing to the local economy as well as equipping our graduates for jobs in the service economy, such as the financial sector, professional services, the media and the creative industries, all of which are such vital contributors to the UK economy.”

Prospective students can apply immediately, with the college offering assisted places to more than 20% of the first year’s intake.


Most ‘wasting money on health supplements’ finds NHS report

Interesting and pleasing that both antioxidants and Omega 3 get the thumbs down

Most are wasting money on vitamin pills and other health supplements that do them no good, an NHS report has warned.

The market for dietary supplements and vitamins was worth more than £670 million in 2009, according to NHS Choices, which provides general health information.

But, in a new report titled Supplements: Who needs them? the authors concluded: “During our work it has become clear that the widely perceived benefits of certain supplements simply do not have enough robust evidence to support them.”

This was partly due to press coverage, partly due to the way they were marketed, and partly due to “the sheer volume of misinformation floating around on the internet.”

The report found that vitamin supplements to be a particular area of wasted cash.

Accounting for almost a third of the overall market, at £208 million, the report stated: “There are clearly plenty of people buying vitamin supplements but, surprisingly, only certain groups are considered to benefit from taking them.”

This included those over 65; those with darker skin and those who were not exposed to a lot of sun – who should all take vitamin D supplements – and all children from six months to five years, who should take a multivitamin (A, C and D) supplement.

The authors wrote: “If you fall outside of these groups and buy vitamin pills then the chances are that you will be spending your money on surplus amounts of vitamins you’ve already gained through your diet.”

The jury was still out on antioxidants, it reported, concluding that research indicated “it would seem sensible for most of us to rely on a balanced diet” for our intake of the compounds.

There was “little evidence” that some weight loss products sold by “reputable retailers” worked, while a review of how they were marketed found half breached advertising regulations.

It reported there was also “little evidence” that vitamin C supplements were “beneficial within the general community in terms of preventing infection” from cold viruses, although the authors conceded they did seem to reduce cold duration “a little”.

However, there was recent evidence that zinc was effective in fighting cold viruses, although it “may not seem worth the expense” at £35 for a five month supply.

While it is recommended that people who have suffered a heart attack eat two to four portions of oily fish a week, it reported that more trials were needed to “confirm suggestions of a protective effect on cardiovascular health”.

Neither was there “compelling evidence” that omega-3 fatty acids helped boost children’s brainpower, the report warned.

It concluded: “Overall, it is clear that we may be placing our hope in products that still require far more testing.”


Ovarian cancer discovery gives hope to women after biggest breakthrough in two decades

A drug has been hailed as the biggest breakthrough in 20 years of ovarian cancer research after trials showed it can increase patients’ life expectancy by up to eight months.

British researchers found Avastin, which is used to treat breast and bowel cancers, is also effective against ovarian cancer.

The disease has been called the ‘silent killer’ because it often has no symptoms in the early stages and in 80 per cent of cases is not detected until it has spread. Currently, the only treatment is chemotherapy following surgery.

Annwen Jones, chief executive of the charity Target Ovarian Cancer, said: ‘It is the first glimmer of hope that there are significant advancements in treatments for ovarian cancer on the horizon.

‘There is a moral imperative to ensure Avastin is fast-tracked through the necessary regulatory processes.’

The research, which was revealed at the American Society of Clinical Oncology’s annual conference yesterday, involved more than 1,500 women across Europe with advanced ovarian cancer.

All had their tumour removed and received chemotherapy, but those also given Avastin, which starves tumours of the blood they need to grow and spread, lived on average 7.8 months longer than the control group.

Lead investigator Dr Charlie Gourley, from the Edinburgh Cancer Research UK Centre, said: ‘We would like to be able to make ovarian cancer a chronic, rather than fatal, disease.’

Roche, which manufactures the drug, has applied to the European Medicines Agency for a licence to use it to treat ovarian cancer, which means it could be available before the end of the year.

It will then need to be approved by the Government’s drugs watchdog NICE before it is widely available. In the meantime, women can apply to the Government’s Cancer Drugs Fund to receive the drug.



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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