MPs demand NHS complaints shake-up as it is too complicated for patients

The NHS complaints process needs a ‘complete overhaul’ as it is simply too difficult for patients to understand, MPs said last night. They called on ministers to carry out an immediate review of the way trusts handle complaints from patients.

The current structure is not working and urgent measures are required to encourage a ‘more open culture’ when dealing with complaints and admitting mistakes, members of the cross-party Commons health select committee said.

Last year, the Mail launched a campaign for a better complaints procedure in the Health Service following complaints from patients organisations that people face having to complain to those guilty of making the mistake before they can go to an independent investigator.

The number of complaints about the NHS is rising and tops one million a year. Experts believe a mixture of factors is to blame, including worsening care, increased demand for healthcare and better awareness of the complaints process.

The report calls for a review of the system ‘without delay’, suggesting ministers consider whether two systems should be created, one dealing with complaints about customer care and a second examining more serious complaints about clinical issues.

They said there was unacceptable variation across the country, and that ‘NHS culture is too often defensive and the service remains to be persuaded to adopt a more open culture’.

‘In particular we are concerned about the number of individual cases where complainants did not feel the NHS was sufficiently responsive to their concerns.’

The report said the role of the independent Health Service Ombudsman should also be expanded to allow more claims to be examined as part of an appeals process when patients are unhappy.

At present, patients complain first to the NHS trust in charge of their treatment. If they are not satisfied, they can ask the Ombudsman to review the case.

But MPs said the Ombudsman’s remit is much narrower than patients think. Only about 3 per cent of the complaints received by the Ombudsman are accepted for formal investigation or intervention, although many more are examined unofficially.

Tory MP Stephen Dorrell, chairman of the committee, said: ‘The legal and operational framework of the Health Service Ombudsman should be widened so that she can independently review any complaint which is referred to her following rejection by a service provider.’

Katherine Murphy, of the Patients Association, said the system was failing patients. ‘How can a system hope to be fair and impartial when it relies on the trust investigating itself,’ she added.


Population in the UK will hit 70m even earlier than feared thanks to ‘immigrant baby boom’

Runaway migration will drive the UK population above 70million in 15 years – three years earlier than previously predicted. In 2009 official estimates predicted it would take 20 years to reach this landmark level, a figure the Prime Minister has said the nation must not reach. But the latest calculation suggests it could hit 70.4million in 2026, placing huge pressure on public services and housing.

The projection was compiled by the House of Commons library after questions by Tory MP James Clappison. It assumes net migration – the difference between numbers arriving and leaving – remained around its current record level of 240,000 a year. Ministers pledged to cut it to the ‘tens of thousands’ by 2015.

Two-thirds of the population rise is due to immigration, including an ‘immigrant baby boom’ caused by higher-than-average birth rates among migrant mothers.

Commentators said the analysis shows the ‘absolute necessity’ of cutting the number of migrants coming here.

It shows the population, now thought to be around 62.8million, will rise to 65million in 2016, 67million in 2020 and 69million in 2024. The vast majority of the population increase would be in England. Today’s figures show that even if net migration fell to an average of 180,000 a year, the population will hit 70million in 2029.

Immigration Minister Damian Green insisted net migration would fall to below 100,000 a year. ‘We are fixing the broken immigration system. ‘Our reforms will bring net migration down to the tens of thousands.’


British judge orders secretive Warmist organization to reveal its data

That it took a court to force into the open the data that normal scientific practice would have made freely available tells a story all of its own

Steve McIntyre

Breaking news: Today probably marks the closing chapter of the longstanding FOI request for CRUTEM station data. The UK Information Commissioner (ICO) has rendered a decision (see here) on Jonathon Jones’ appeal of the UEA’s refusal to provide Prof Jones with the CRUTEM station data that they had previously provided to Georgia Tech. The decision that can only be characterized as a total thrashing of the University of East Anglia.

Professor Jonathan Jones of Oxford University (like me, an alumnus of Corpus Christi, Oxford), is a Bishop Hill and CA reader and was one of several CA readers who requested the CRUTEM version sent to Georgia Tech earlier that year. (Contrary to disinformation from Nature, relatively few readers requested CRUTEM data; most FOI requests at the time were for the supposed confidentiality agreements prohibiting data being sent to “non-academics” – agreements that the University was unable to produce.

Jones’ request for CRUTEM data, like mine, was refused by UEA. Like me, Jones appealed the refusal at UEA (the first stage). On Oct 23, 2009, UEA rejected his appeal. (My appeal was rejected about 3 weeks later on the very eve of Climategate.) While I didn’t pursue the appeal to the ICO, Prof Jones did appeal and the present decision is the result of this appeal.

I was unaware that this appeal was pending and the decision came as a surprise to me. Since the story started at CA, Andrew Montford and Prof Jones decided that news of the decision should also be broken here. I anticipate that Bishop Hill will also cover the story.

I urge readers to read the thoughtful decision. My own comments will be restricted to some legal aspects of the decision that intrigued me.

As a first comment on the University’s defence – in keeping with similar refusals of other requests, rather than focusing on their best line of argument,the practice of the UEA is to use a laundry list of exemptions – more or less throwing spitballs against the wall to see if any of them stuck. Many of the spitballs seem pretty strained, to say the least. In his ruling, the ICO picked each spitball off the wall and, in the process, established or confirmed a number of precedents that will hopefully encourage fewer spitballs in the future.

The ruling on intellectual property rights interested me in particular, as UEA has attempted to apply this in other cases as well (e.g. Yamal, presently under appeal). The ICO observed that the mere existence of a copyright or database right did not demonstrate the application of s 12(5)(c), let alone the primacy of the exemption over the public interest test.

In addition to other arguments, the UEA claimed both copyright and database rights to the CRUTEM station data and argued that, if released to Prof Jones, they would “lose any right of commercial exploitation of its [CRUTEM] databases. Once the information was released and freely available, extraction and reutilization of the data could be carried out by any party without further recourse to the UEA”.

The Commissioner dryly wondered how “UEA might have planned to commercially exploit the specific information requested and how disclosure might have impacted on any plans that it might have developed or been in the process of developing” before rejecting their arguments.

Some of the University’s arguments purporting to uphold their supposed “intellectual property rights” should ring as particularly contemptible to most members of the public. If climate scientists exhort the public to make personal sacrifices, it seems hypocritical that they should claim that their “intellectual property rights” prevent examination of data being used to underpin those requests to make sacrifices.


‘I’ll end culture of re-sits and toughen up GCSEs’: British Govt. minister vows to bring back REAL exams

Pupils will be forced to sit their GCSEs as final exams instead of in bite-size chunks under radical plans to toughen up the tests. The Education Secretary has attacked the effect of modular GCSEs – where teenagers take several exams throughout the year, with the chance to retake them – saying they have dumbed down education.

Michael Gove said the system introduced under Labour had created a ‘culture of re-sits’ that has led to students retaking modules until they get better grades. And he said that while other countries had made their examination system more rigorous, England had gone backwards.

Mr Gove said pupils will now sit final exams at the end of their last GCSE year. They will be marked down for bad spelling, punctuation and grammar in all courses with a ‘sustained section of writing’ including geography and history.

Mr Gove also criticised exam boards for a series of blunders in GCSE and A-level papers sat by some 250,000 pupils in recent weeks. ‘Exam boards have made big mistakes – this is heart-breaking for the students. So we need to change the way that GCSEs operate. Some GCSEs are broken into bite-size chunks. ‘This means bits could be re-sat, so instead of concentrating on teaching and learning, more time was being spent on practice for exams.

‘This meant that less time was being spent on developing a deep and rounded knowledge of the subject. ‘I think the modular system was a mistake, and the culture of re-sits is wrong.’

And he added: ‘Other countries have more rigorous exams and curricula more relevant to the 21st century. ‘If you are looking at the way grades are awarded, the real question is whether our exams are keeping pace with other countries. ‘Our children will be competing for jobs with children from across the world.’

Modular GSCEs were introduced in 2009 under reforms designed to make the exams less stressful. Pupils currently take modular GCSEs broken into units spread across two-year courses, rather than just sitting exams at the end.

The system mirrors A-levels which were made modular in 2000, with critics saying the change has made the qualifications easier to pass.

Mr Gove yesterday said he will now turn his attention to A-levels – having previously indicated he would like to scrap modules for them as well.

Education expert Professor Alan Smithers, of Buckingham University, said Mr Gove’s announcement was a ‘move in the right direction’. He added: ‘It has been true that schools have been game-playing modules and re-takes mean that the exams aren’t a good comparison of what young people can do.’

Mr Gove will also announce today that trainee teachers who fail basic spelling and maths tests will be barred from the profession. Trainees will be allowed only three attempts to pass basic literacy and numeracy tests which, at present, they can retake an unlimited number of times. ‘They will not be allowed to start trainee courses until they have passed.

Among the questions asked in the trainee tests are:

* Teachers organised activities for three classes of 24 pupils and four classes of 28 pupils. What was the total number of pupils involved?

* There were no [blank] remarks at the parents’ evening. Is the correct word: dissaproving disaproveing dissapproving disapproving?

The plans, which will take effect from 2012, come as figures show a staggering 10 per cent of trainees had to retake basic numeracy tests more than three times.

Additional plans include a move to stop government funding for applicants who have not gained at least a 2:2 in their degree.


SKINNY gene raises risk of heart disease and diabetes

They may be the envy of their fuller-figured friends, but slim people shouldn’t feel too self satisfied. Being trim doesn’t guarantee they are healthy.

Researchers have found a so-called ‘lean gene’ that helps them keep weight off but also raises their odds of developing diabetes and heart disease. The link is particularly strong in men, meaning those with washboard stomachs may not be quite as healthy as they think.

Scientists compared the genetic codes of more than 75,000 people with the ratio of fat to muscle in their bodies. This revealed an extremely common gene called IRS1 to be linked to leanness.

But while we are used to hearing about the many health benefits of being thin, IRS1 seemed to buck the trend. Those with the gene had higher levels of dangerous blood fats and found it harder to process sugar.

This put them at a 20 per cent higher risk of developing heart disease and type 2 diabetes – the form that develops in middle-age and is often blamed on obesity.

As the gene is only linked to lower levels of fat stored just below the skin, known as subcutaneous fat, it may be that people who have IRS1 stash theirs elsewhere. If fat is wrapped around the heart, liver or other organs it could lead to life-threatening conditions.

The study, reported in the journal Nature Genetics, involved teams at 72 institutions in ten countries.

Lead scientist Dr Ruth Loos, of the MRC Epidemiology Unit in Cambridge, said: ‘People, particularly men, with a specific form of the gene are more likely to be lean and to develop heart disease and type 2 diabetes. ‘In simple terms, it is not only overweight individuals who can be predisposed for these diseases, and lean individuals shouldn’t make assumptions that they are healthy based on their appearance.’

She suggested that the effects may be more pronounced in men because they store less fat than women, and could be more sensitive to changes in its distribution.

Professor Nick Wareham, the unit’s director, added: ‘The research will provide new insights into why not all lean people are healthy and, conversely, why not all overweight people are at risk of metabolic diseases.’

Professor Jeremy Pearson, of the British Heart Foundation, said: ‘These results reinforce the idea that it is not just how fat you are, but where you lay down fat that’s particularly important for heart risk. ‘Fat stored internally is worse for you than fat stored under the skin.’


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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