Not so free: Hospitals attacked over ‘outrageous’ £32m car park profit

Hospital trusts are making annual profits of more than £1 million by charging patients and visitors to use their car parks, an investigation has found. Across the NHS in England, total profits from parking rose by 14 per cent last year, to around £32 million.

The increase came as two trusts – West Hertfordshire, and Luton and Dunstable – introduced minimum parking charges of £4.

The charges were condemned as “outrageous” and a “tax on the sick” by the Patients Association, which called on the Coalition to make hospital parking free in England, as it is in Scotland and Wales.

On average, two hours’ hospital parking costs £2.29 – 60 per cent higher than the average for council car parks used by shoppers. Half of all trusts levy a minimum charge, with no free parking except for key groups such as cancer patients.

Some of the trusts making the most profit from parking have been condemned for poor patient care. Worcestershire Acute Hospitals NHS trust, one of four making an annual profit of more than £1 million, last week apologised for leaving patients so dehydrated that doctors were forced to prescribe water.

The other three trusts making more than £1 million were Sheffield Teaching Hospitals, Southampton University Hospitals and South London Healthcare.

Michelle Mitchell, charity director at Age UK, said: “Many older people and their families rely on their car to attend hospital. “Hospitals must not make car parking charges an unreasonable barrier to getting treatment or unfairly penalise people for visiting relatives who often help to provide care.”

Katherine Murphy, chief executive of the Patients Association, said: “These new figures reveal the startlingly high costs some patients are facing. Hospitals should not have to rely on charging patients and visitors to park to make ends meet. “It is outrageous that some hospitals are charging sick people so much money to access services they need.

“Car parking charges make a mockery of a service supposed to be free at the point of need, and we urge the Department of Health to scrap these charges as they have been in Scotland and Wales.”

The figures are based on a Freedom of Information request to England’s 175 acute hospital trusts. Three-quarters replied, and nationwide totals were extrapolated from their responses.

The figures also show 109,000 fines were issued in hospital car parks last year, earning trusts a further £874,300. London’s Imperial College NHS Trust alone issued fines totalling £110,000.

Some 1,300 drivers were clamped – 651 of them at one trust, St George’s in Tooting, south London. It said most of the affected cars were owned by staff.

The Royal Free Hampstead NHS Trust said its charges – the highest in England at £6 for two hours – reflected “the need to deter shoppers and other casual users and the high cost of providing car parking in London”.

The Department of Health said: “NHS organisations have the autonomy to make decisions locally and should work with their local communities to set appropriate policies.”

All the trusts making a profit said money was reinvested in treating patients.

Trafford Healthcare NHS Trust, which runs the Trafford General Hospital in Manchester, last year became the first of its kind in England to scrap parking charges.


Sneering at the British working class (still)

Plus ca change …

Working class people have been demonised and their culture is under attack according to a new book that looks at the cruel stereotypes that have crept into popular culture. Chav-bashing and laughing at the working classes has become a socially acceptable past time, according to author Owen James.

He says the rich love to hate them and blame them for their own misfortune with jokes such as one about the closure of Woolworths leading to the privileged wondering where ‘chavs’ will go to get their Christmas presents in the future.

A YouGov poll from 2006 asked professionals working in TV whether Vicky Pollard was an accurate representation of the white working class with 70 per cent saying yes. Prime Minster, David Cameron also at one time claimed that Shameless was his favourite programme.

In his book, Chavs: The Demonisation of the Working Classes, Mr Jones says have become a society in which working class people have become invisible or despised, according to the Observer. He said: ‘The 1980s saw a dramatic assault on all aspects of working-class life, on unions and council houses and communities and with it, working class pride. ‘Its been replaced by middle-class pride and the working classes have come to be seen as something to escape from.’

The Only Way is Essex is the must-see show of the moment. A fortnight ago it won the You Tube audience award at the Baftas. Its mixture of reality TV and scripted show gives a stereotypical one-sided view of Britain’s chavland, according to Mr Jones who describes the characters as ‘grotesque caricatures of working class life.’

In the Brentwood based show, the characters are not poor. They have money and are successful with aspiring dreams of wealth.

Historian, Dominic Sandford says the show represents an image of ‘working class people bettering themselves and still being tasteless.’

Essex resident, Laura, a 26-year-old insurance broker who works in Brentwood, studied geology at Manchester University. She is happy to describe herself as working class but says The Only Way is Essex is not representative of Brentwood. ‘If you go into the Sugar Hut (nightclub), you’ll see all the girls dolled up to the nines, but it’s not what the rest of us are like. ‘At university I used to say I was from East Anglia, because if you said you were from Essex, people would say, ‘Where’s your white stilettos?’ ‘Or, ‘Do you dance around your handbag?’ There was a really sneering attitude.’

She says no TV programme that is currently on show presents the reality of working class life. ‘There’s not, is there? There’s nothing. There’s just these ridiculous people getting fake tans and boob jobs.’


‘Be Prepared’ for equality… The Scouts look to recruit more gay leaders and members

Britain’s best-known youth movement is going gay-friendly. The Scout Association has revealed plans to boost its number of gay members and leaders in a bid to banish the perception that homosexuals cannot sign up. The half-a-million strong movement has released a video as part of the campaign – which will also let Scouts attend gay pride parades in uniform.

The move has been praised for dragging the group into the 21st century. But some have slammed it for ‘steering the organisation’ away from its original Christian values.

Wayne Bulpitt, the association’s UK chief commissioner, filmed a video offering support to an anti-bullying campaign led by gay rights charity Stonewall. In it he stated: ‘Bullying is wrong on every level, not just for the person being bullied, but for the bully too. ‘In Scouting we believe that all young people, irrespective of their sexuality, gender, race, creed or background, have an equal opportunity to develop and to be themselves.’

Scouts spokesman Simon Carter said the campaign was designed to move the group away from its reputation as being ‘austere and militaristic’. He said: ‘There was an assumption that being gay meant you couldn’t be part of the movement. ‘That was never the case and we are keen to make it clear that we accept people of any particular orientation.

‘We have had youth members and adults attend Pride events and plan to do so again this year. ‘It shows that we are not just taking about it but are demonstrating our support publicly.’

The association, which ended its ban on’ female members in 1991, has created a series of advisory documents on gay issues for members and adult leaders. They are aimed at counselling young people about informing others about their sexuality.

It states: ‘Coming out is a major decision in your life. You may decide to tell your family, a friend, your teacher or a Scout leader. ‘There is nothing wrong with being gay and being a Scout and the person that you tell should be supportive and non judgemental to what you are telling them.’

Leaders are advised to treat such conversations as confidential, but to have other adults ‘within hearing or sight’, and to be prepared to pass on details for specialised support organisations. A second leaflet, called Gay Adults In Scouting, reassures prospective leaders and volunteers they will not be turned away on the basis of their sexuality.

Patrick Harvie, the Scottish Green leader, welcomed the move and urged the Scouts to go further and lift their ban on atheists and agnostics.

But it has also been slammed for ‘diluting’ the group’s original Christian theme. John Cormack, of the Scottish Christian Party, said: ‘My reaction to this is one of dismay and I suspect many other people will also be deeply concerned.

‘Sexual morality is an area where the parents should be taking the lead, not the Scouts. This is a huge step-change away from the Christian founding ethos of the Scout movement.’


Prime-time smut, vile obscenities on Radio 4 and a smug British elite who sneer at the silent majority

When the BBC executives talk about Sandi Toksvig, they like to use phrases like ‘much-loved’ and ‘much-admired’. The trouble is that when presenters like her become well-established and popular at the Corporation, they think they can get away with anything — as long as they can use ‘wit’ as an excuse. Presumably that was the rationale behind the BBC describing a particularly crass ‘joke’ she used on Radio 4 as ‘a delight’.

No doubt some people will have found her controversial scripted comment on the increasingly tedious programme The News Quiz funny rather than offensive.

Certainly, her typically Left-leaning quip (and the programme is built on them) got an easy laugh. I’m afraid I have to repeat it to make the point, so here it comes: ‘It’s the Tories who have put the “n” into cuts.’ Not especially witty, I agree. But it’s what happened afterwards that I find truly offensive.

When a listener complained about this reference to what was once an unacceptable four-letter word, the BBC’s response was so feeble and complacent it might have been issued by the broadcasting regulator Ofcom.

To me, there’s a direct link between this row over Toksvig’s gag and the news that TV chiefs are to be ordered to crack down on what is aired on our TV screens before the 9pm watershed. A report to be published today, commissioned by the Prime Minister, will make Ofcom confront the conveyor belt of smut on our screens. At long last.

Don’t forget, it was Ofcom that disregarded public outrage over the sleazy dance routines performed by the stars Rihanna and Christina Aguilera on The X Factor last year, and ignored 4,500 complaints.

It was Ofcom that outrageously tried to shift blame to this newspaper after it published images from the TV programme to highlight the fact it was anything but family viewing. It is Ofcom that, so often, lets decent, ordinary viewers down.

Do you think the producers of The X Factor or the bosses at ITV feel any shame for what was broadcast to the young children who watch the show with their parents early on a Saturday evening? I doubt it.

But then the images we witnessed on that show — just like Sandi Toksvig’s cheap and degrading joke on the radio — reveal much about the attitudes of those with power in the world of broadcasting. You can bet they chime perfectly with the unelected members of Ofcom, who boast six-figure salaries and an anything goes attitude to standards.

The issue here is about how we judge what is acceptable. It raises the question of whether the broadcasters ever stop to consider the long-term consequences of the pervasive coarsening of image, word and thought we have witnessed over the past ten years.

When Colin Harrow, a retired newspaperman, complained about that News Quiz joke, his objection was rejected by the BBC and the BBC Trust. The reasons given are revealing. The (then) commissioning editor Paul Mayhew-Archer acknowledged that he knew the joke might cause offence, but still thought that no reason to cut it.

Referring to the once taboo c-word, he said: ‘I was also aware that as a society our tolerance of “strong” language keeps shifting. Ten years ago, the single use of the word in a film would automatically earn it an X certificate. This is no longer the case. For good or ill, the word does not seem to have quite the shock value it did.’

Doesn’t it? If someone called you that word wouldn’t you take offence? If a yobbo shouted it at your wife or girlfriend, wouldn’t you be outraged?

People have been using expletives in private for years. But such words become acceptable only because educated people such as Mr Archer decide it’s OK for them to be used in public.

What’s more, the context is all important. What a yobbish football crowd yells at Wayne Rooney cannot be compared with something that is broadcast to a nationwide audience in the middle of the evening.

It is simply not true to declare that the expletive has lost its shock value. It is a term of abuse. And — witty or not — Sandi was deliberately invoking it to abuse the Conservative Party, in that leery, sniggering, News Quiz style.

Of course, a presenter will try to get away with a ‘joke’ they are proud of. The responsibility lies with those with the power of veto who should have the courage to say: ‘Sorry, old girl, that’s too near the knuckle.’

A broadcaster making a slip of the tongue (as Jim Naughtie memorably did on the Today programme when referring to Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt) is one thing, but to choose to allow the taboo to be broken (even if obliquely) in a pre-recorded programme, and then defend the decision by saying that times have changed . . . it’s disingenuous, devious and dishonest.

If, as a society, we have become more tolerant of foul language, sick jokes, tawdry TV images, uncontrolled behaviour and pervasive sexualisation of young children, that is largely because broadcasters and film-makers and others in our creative industries have been pushing back the boundaries for years.

A shift happens only because of a collective push. It’s as if the callow men and women in positions of responsibility within broadcasting are so desperate to appear cool and right on they don’t dare to say ‘No’.

Ofcom has said that its own research shows that the c-word is still highly offensive and that it would investigate any complaint made to it. I’d be happy about that if I thought the promise had any meaning. But given their track record, can we believe it?

It seems to me that the kind of people who serve on this quango have so much in common with those who run our broadcasting institutions that the two are virtually interchangeable. This is a self-satisfied liberal elite that regards any sort of censorship as the ultimate evil.

There has always been a gulf between what is acceptable to the chattering classes and what is experienced by what used to be called The Silent Majority.

I once had a fierce argument with a good friend who had enjoyed a privileged upbringing, private education, brilliant university career and richly rewarded professional life, who told me I made too much fuss about what was suitable to be seen on TV, even by children. He genuinely believed pornography was fun, and that there was no proven connection between grotesque violence on screen and real-life crime. And so on.

Over the years I’ve met so many like him — knee-jerk liberals with no knowledge of the real-life consequences of such slackness of thought. They sneer at those of us who worry that the refusal at the top of society to set any limits filters right down to those who are the most impressionable and most likely to be corrupted by crude images and words. They accuse us of that most embarrassingly uncool sin: moral panic.

As if it’s prudish to point out that when little girls watch famous singers dress and dance like hookers —as I witnessed for myself at a Rihanna concert — it has a direct influence on the way they value themselves.

As if it’s reactionary to suggest that when respected broadcasters see nothing wrong in tacitly approving the crudest of expletives, another chunk falls out of the wall of decency.

That’s why I hope today’s report — presented by Reg Bailey, the chief executive of the Mothers’ Union — is really tough on the broadcasters, and kicks Ofcom where it hurts. Its proposals should force the watchdog to consult regularly with parents who are, after all, in the trenches every day fighting to keep a vestige of innocence in their children’s lives.

I want the glorious Mothers’ Union to take on the chattering classes — and win.

People like my friend and his peers within the BBC, ITV and Channel 4 form a Left- leaning media establishment as set in its ways as any squire in the shires. Labour and Lib Dem voters to a man and woman, they may see themselves as progressive, but the irony is that these privileged, blinkered people have presided over a dumbed-down, coarsened culture for so long that it’s those bold enough to challenge them who are the true radicals.

We are the ones demanding change. Revolution, if you like — with a manifesto based on respect for taste and human dignity. We should take the fight to the enemy, starting with the TV watershed, and presenters and producers who think that anything goes.


40 UK universities are now breeding grounds for terror as hardline groups peddle hate on campus

England’s universities have become a breeding ground for extremism and terrorist recruitment, according to a disturbing government report.

Officials have identified 40 English universities where ‘there may be particular risk of radicalisation or recruitment on campus’.

A soon to be published Whitehall report – seen by the Daily Mail – will point to a string of examples of students going on to commit terrorist acts against this country or overseas.

Alarmingly the Prevent review says that ‘more than 30 per cent of people convicted for Al Qaeda-associated terrorist offences in the UK . . . are known to have attended university or a higher education institution.

‘Another 15 per cent studied or achieved a vocational or further education qualification. About 10 per cent of the sample were students at the time when they were charged or the incident for which they were convicted took place.’

The report, prepared by Home Office officials, warns of hardline Islamic groups specifically targeting universities which have large numbers of Muslim students in order to peddle a message of hate.

Students are even ‘engaging in terrorism or related activities while members of university societies’.

But it says the universities are not doing enough to respond to this threat to national security. Fewer than half of universities are engaged with the police.

Home Secretary Theresa May will demand universities do more to confront this threat. She also wants more action to deport preachers of hate.

The universities which have given places to fanatics include some of our most prestigious institutions.

The report will say that terrorists who have attended English universities include Taimour Abdulwahab al-Abdaly, the Stockholm suicide bomber who had a BSc in sports therapy from the University of Luton, now the University of Bedfordshire.

The alleged Detroit underpants bomber, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, studied mechanical engineering at University College London between 2005 and 2008.

Two of the fanatics convicted of the transatlantic liquid bomb plot – ringleader Abdulla Ahmed Ali and Assad Sarwar – attended City and Brunel Universities respectively.

The review says the Department for Business, which is in charge of universities, has identified about 40 English universities where there may be a particular risk.

Some now have a dedicated police officer to advise on tackling radicalisation.The document raises particular alarm about the Federation of Student Islamic Societies (FOSIS). It says there are ‘several examples of students engaging in terrorism or related activities while members of university societies affiliated to FOSIS.

Such extremists must have no part in any organisation that wishes to be recognised as a representative body.’

The finger of blame for radicalising students is pointed at Hizb-ut-Tahrir, which David Cameron promised to ban in opposition, and off-shoots of a fanatical group once run by preacher of hate Omar Bakri.

One section warns: ‘We believe there is unambiguous evidence to indicate that some extremist organisations, notably Hizb-ut-Tahrir, target specific universities and colleges (notably those with a large number of Muslim students) with the objective of radicalising and recruiting students.’

Universities UK says that universities ‘are places where ideas and beliefs can be tested without fear of control’, and that they act as a safeguard against ideologies that threaten Britain’s open society.

The worries about the lax attitude of some universities is combined with concern about the student visa route. Ten of the 11 Pakistani nationals seized on suspicion of plotting an atrocity in the North-West in 2009 had student visas.

The alleged ringleader of this plot – Abid Naseer – was a computer studies student at Liverpool John Moores University.

Mrs May is determined to crack down on the abuse of the student visa route.

However, she has faced opposition within government from Michael Gove’s Education Department and Business Secretary Vince Cable.Meanwhile, Whitehall officials are said to be concerned that Mr Gove’s flagship ‘free schools’ policy – where parents can obtain state funding to open and run their own schools – could be targeted by extremists.

Security officials working in a dedicated unit are expected to vet the backgrounds of all would-be applicants for evidence of extremism or radicalisation.

The Prevent strategy is said to have caused behind-the-scenes rows within the Government.

Mr Gove is understood to have argued that the Government should not engage with groups which hold any extremist beliefs – even though these are the ones most likely to attract would-be terrorists.

Four months ago, in a major speech in Munich, the Prime Minister signalled an end to ‘passive tolerance’ of extremist Islamic organisations which foster hatred against the West and radicalise young Muslims.


Stressed at the office? Break out the pomegranate juice – it will make you more enthusiastic about your job

This would seem to be just corporate puffery — research NOT done under double blind conditions. That the stuff contains anti-oxidants is a concern though, considering the evidence that such molecules SHORTEN your life

Pomegranate juice could help beat stress at the office, research claims. It has been shown to lower workers’ heart rates and make them feel more enthusiastic about their jobs.

Scientists studied a group of volunteers who drank 500ml of the juice every day for two weeks. At the beginning and end of the study their pulse rate was measured and they filled in a questionnaire describing their mood and feelings about their job.

The research – funded by the Pomegreat juice company – showed almost all of the workers reported being more enthusiastic, inspired, proud and active. They were less likely to describe their feelings as distressed, nervous, guilty and ashamed compared with the beginning of the fortnight and most had lower pulse rates.

Experts claim increasing numbers of Britons are affected by work-related pressures. Figures from the charity Mind show around a fifth of employees called in sick at some point last year as they were stressed.

Lead researcher Dr Emad Al-Dujaili, of Queen Margaret University in Edinburgh, said: ‘On the basis of these findings there is a justified argument for busy workers to drink pomegranate juice to help alleviate chronic stress and maintain good health.

‘There is growing evidence that pomegranate juice delivers wide-ranging health benefits that merit further research. ‘It is very rare indeed for an all-natural juice to offer the range of health benefits that we are seeing in pomegranate juice.’

Last year the same researchers claimed that pomegranate juice could help to combat middle-aged spread. After just one month, volunteers who drank a bottle of pomegranate juice every day were found to be less likely to develop fatty cells around their abdomen.

They also had lower blood pressure, reducing the risk of heart attacks, strokes and kidney disease. Scientists also claim pomegranate juice can help to fight cancer, heart disease and the aging process. It is high in antioxidants, chemicals which help neutralise harmful oxygen molecules – called free radicals.


There is a new lot of postings by Chris Brand just up — on his usual vastly “incorrect” themes of race, genes, IQ etc.


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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