Hospital waiting times rocket as scrapping of targets leaves thousands waiting more than six weeks for key tests
Thousands more patients are facing lengthy delays for vital tests to diagnose cancer and other life-threatening illnesses. Nearly 16,000 people a month are now forced to wait more than six weeks for ultrasounds, CT scans and various hospital checks, a four-fold rise compared with this time last year.
These tests are commonly used to spot cancerous tumours as well as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, strokes and heart problems. Campaigners warned that the longer patients were forced to wait to for a diagnosis, particularly for cancer, the less likely they would be to survive.
The figures back up concerns among doctors and senior managers that waiting times are rising sharply across the NHS. Hospitals are facing increasing financial pressures and many have been forced to cut staffing levels.
Last month’s Department of Health figures show that 15,929 patients were waiting longer than six weeks for one of 15 tests used to diagnose cancer, heart problems, dementia and osteoporosis, compared with 3,495 for the same period in 2010.
The number includes 2,152 who waited more than six weeks for an MRI scan, commonly used to diagnose cancer, strokes, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, compared with 374 the previous year, nearly a six-fold increase. However, many hospitals are doing better than expected, meaning the NHS is still meeting its pledge of treating 90 per cent of patients within 18 weeks.
Prime Minister David Cameron has promised not to lose control of waiting times after Health Secretary Andrew Lansley scrapped the 18 week target set by Labour. Hospitals have been told they are still expected to see most patients within 18 weeks.
The statistics came as managers in the NHS warned in a survey that patient access is likely to suffer in tough financial times.
A spokesman for the Department of Health said: ‘In May 2011, the average (median) waiting time for a diagnostic test was 1.9 weeks. ‘In May 2010 it was 1.8 weeks, showing that waiting times have remained stable. ‘Pressures on the NHS are rising all the time. Diagnostic activity in the three months to May 2011 was 10% higher than in the three months to May 2010. ‘This increase in activity is contributing to improving quality of care but is adding to pressures.
‘This shows why we need to modernise the NHS to protect it for future generations.’
Shadow health secretary John Healey said: ‘These figures show that long waiting times for tests are up more than four-fold since David Cameron became Prime Minister. ‘It is clear that the Government’s reckless reorganisation is beginning to impact on patient care and that we are starting to see the NHS go backwards under the Tories.’
Global warming? A new ice age? The only certainty is that YOU’RE paying for the hysteria of our politicians
Comment from Britain
Who would possibly have thought it? The latest news is that the world may be threatened by a sharp drop in temperatures, possibly so severe that it could herald a new mini ice age. And one reason being put forward for this is that all the pollution being chucked out by thousands of coal-fired power stations may be blocking the sun’s heat from the Earth.
Dr Robert Kaufman of Boston University blamed China this week. ‘During the Chinese economic expansion there was a huge increase in sulphur emissions,’ he said. And this was the cause of global cooling.
But hang on a moment. Aren’t these new climate scaremongers the very same people who only a few years back were telling us that the planet was in danger of being fried to a crisp by runaway global warming?
And wasn’t it on their say so that the world’s politicians, led by our own here in Britain, were committing us to spending hundreds of billions of pounds to save the planet from the catastrophic warming caused by those same evil power stations?
The question this extraordinary turn of events raises is whether any of these supposed experts actually have the faintest idea what they are talking about.
But perhaps the most bizarre thing about this latest twist in the ongoing climate scare story is the way it takes us precisely back to where it all started 40 years ago.
All of us today have become so accustomed to the notion of global warming that it is hard to believe that in the Seventies, U.S. scientists began to warn us the world was heading for a cooling so severe it might even herald a new ice age. This was because for 30 years, after a sharp rise earlier in the 20th century, global temperatures had markedly dropped.
And the cause of this cooling, it was argued by the U.S. scientists, led by climatologists Stephen Schneider and James Hansen, was all the sulphur dioxide and other particulates being chucked out by burning fossil fuels — notably those from coal-fired power stations.
Fifteen years later, the very same scientists were at the forefront of the great panic over global warming. Schneider, who became Professor of environmental biology and global change at Stanford University, argued this time that the damage was being done not by soot and sulphur preventing the sun’s heat reaching the earth, but by carbon dioxide and other ‘greenhouse gases’, which were trapping heat.
It was men such as Schneider and Hansen who, at the end of the Eighties, so terrified the politicians with their theory that CO2 equalled global warming that, within a few years, the world’s leaders were gathering in vast conferences in Rio and Kyoto to sign treaties that committed us to massive cuts in the CO2 emissions on which the global economy depended.
For a while it seemed that the theory they had programmed into dozens of computer models was being confirmed by the evidence. CO2 levels continued to rise and temperatures appeared to follow suit.
But then, more recently, it became obvious that something had gone seriously awry with the theory. Sure, CO2 in the atmosphere was still continuing to rise. But no longer were temperatures rising in synch, as the computer models predicted they should.
By 2007, as temperatures temporarily plummeted by as much as their entire net rise in the 20th century, experts were beginning to question the global warming orthodoxy. An increasing number of breakaway climatologists were saying the cause of that late 20th century rise in temperatures might not be CO2 at all.
Perhaps, they suggested, there were other factors responsible for shaping the earth’s climate — such as fluctuations in radiation from the sun and shifts in the world’s major ocean currents.
So, some of those on the warm-ist side of the argument came up with a compromise theory. Maybe, they agreed, the world was now heading for a period of cooling, but the effect of these natural factors was only to ‘mask the underlying warming trend’. Within a decade or two, the warming produced by man-made CO2 would come back worse than ever.
In the past few years, as much of the world has endured three of its coldest winters for decades, it has become almost comical to see how, whatever our weather does to us, the warmists still manage to cling on to their pet theory.
Whatever happens now, whether it is hot or cold, whether we get heatwaves or record snowfalls, floods or droughts, sooner or later we hear those familiar little voices piping up to tell us that the blame for all these ‘extreme weather events’ still lies on ‘disruption’ to the climate caused by the sinful activities of mankind.
They’re all at it — from the environmental activists of Greenpeace, the WWF and their allies in the BBC and the Met Office, to those thousands of scientists across the world who have received billions in funding from governments investing in climate change research and prevention — all still battling to keep in being the greatest scare story in the history of the world.
The truth is that it becomes ever more obvious that none of them really has a clue as to what is responsible for the changes in our climate. They can’t even tell us what global temperatures will be next month or next year, let alone what they will be in 100 years’ time, as they like to pretend their computer models can predict. But the really terrifying thing about all this is that our politicians have become so locked into the scare story that there is not yet the slightest sign they are prepared to notice the reality now crowding in on them on every side — that global warming is by no means a certainty.
Three years ago, when the hysteria over global warming was still at its height, our own British politicians voted almost unanimously for the Climate Change Act committing us, uniquely in the world, to cut our CO2 emissions by 80 per cent within 40 years. Even on the Government’s own figures, showing that this will cost us up to £18billion every year until 2050, it is by far the most expensive law ever passed by Parliament.
We are also committed to meet an EU target that, within a mere nine years, we must generate a third of our electricity from ‘renewables’ — mainly by spending £200 billion on building thousands more windmills so useless that, last weekend, they could produce only half a per cent of the power we actually needed.
As our politicians continually impose on us ever higher taxes and other costs supposedly in the cause of ‘fighting climate change’ — costs that have already helped to increase every family’s energy bills by an average £200 a year — they have been carried away by a collective fantasy that has no parallel in history.
And all this is happening in the name of a theory so fraudulent that the same people who told us the world is about to fry unless we close down all those power stations are now telling us the same power stations may be heading us into a new ice age.
Truly, the lunatics have taken over the asylum. And short of some massive injection of common sense from the British people, it seems the rest of us are condemned to live in it.
British energy experts slash estimates on household savings from using solar panels
Solar panels that cost up to £16,000 will knock just £70 a year off household bills, which is almost half the original estimate, energy experts have admitted.
Environmental advisers the Energy Saving Trust (EST) has cut its estimate on how much households could save on their electricity bill using solar panels from the previous £120 a year. The EST had estimated that about 50pc of the energy produced by solar panels is used in the home. It now says the figure is more like 25pc.
This is because solar panels work only during the day, when most people are out. The admission comes as solar panel salesmen have been criticised for misleading many households over the benefits of these panels, which can cost as much as £16,000.
The Government has also come under criticism for its controversial green taxes, which are levied on all households via their energy bills to pay people with solar panels to generate their energy.
Every home in Britain could be paying £300 a year through gas and electricity bills by the end of this decade to fund climate change schemes. These schemes have resulted in 300 million energy-efficient lightbulbs being sent in the post to households.
Now an undercover investigation by consumer champion Which? has found many firms selling solar panels were overestimating how much energy the panels would produce.
Jenny Driscoll, energy campaigner with Which?, says: ‘Consumers must really be on their guard when it comes to solar panels. There is a massive amount of exaggeration about the benefits from salesmen. ‘Remember the households that will benefit the most from solar Photovoltaic (PV) panels are those with sunny, south-facing gardens who are in all day.’
PV panels convert sunlight into electricity. They are being advertised by many big names, including Sainsbury’s and British Gas.
Which? found that homeowners can pay between £7,000 to £15,600 for them to be installed on their roof. Around 45,000 homes in the UK have had solar panels installed.
Many of these were convinced to make the investment by a salesman who boasted of huge savings. A big attraction is that householders are actually paid for the energy they generate, regardless of whether or not it is used.
But the actual savings homeowners can make are vague, as much depends on where their property is, which direction the roof faces, and the weather. Working out the benefits is also a complicated sum.
For example, the EST says a typical household pays £560 a year for their electricity. They might pay £12,000 to install solar panels. If only 25pc of the energy generated by the panels is used in their own home, they would save £70 a year on electricity bills — reducing their bill to £490.
The homeowners are also paid about 35p per kWh for the energy they use. The remaining 75pc of unused energy that has been generated will be sold back to the grid for about 41p per kWh. A typical family makes about £800 a year from doing this. However, most solar panels do not store energy — to do this homeowners must install expensive batteries.
So at night, in the evening and on cloudy days — when the solar panels cannot produce any energy —the homeowner must buy electricity from their supplier at a rate of about 20p per kWh. Although this is still a saving, it is not nearly as much as the saving they would make if they simply used their own energy.
These green, so-called ‘feed-in’ tariffs, are paid for by other homeowners by a levy on their energy bills.
By 2020 every household will be paying about £11 a year to fund the scheme. Rosalyn Foreman, of the EST, says: ‘While these are typical estimates, it’s quite possible that someone could save more than £70 if they were at home in the day or set all their appliances to run in daylight hours.’
Which? says there is still a lot of confusion regarding how much energy is produced by solar panels and how much money people can make. This is partly because some salesmen are giving people misleading information.
Solar panels need to be installed on a building with a roof or wall that faces within 90 degrees of South, without being overshadowed by other buildings or trees. Yet seven out of the 12 salespeople in the Which? investigation recommended installing solar PV panels on a shaded part of the roof.
Also, under Government rules installers are not obliged to take into account where people live when calculating how much energy can be produced. In fact, this will depend on your home’s location and the weather.
Virginia Graham, chief executive of solar panel trade body the REAL Assurance Scheme, says: ‘We have always been clear that the people who will benefit most from panels are those who are in during the day. ‘We are also working with charities to ensure that vulnerable consumers are protected from mis-selling. We would like to see doorstep mis-selling banned because it is a unsuitable way to promote this technology.’
Stand up for Britain’s silent majority, Patten tells BBC as director-general admits: We failed to address immigration
The BBC should avoid pandering to ‘metropolitan prejudices’ or a ‘tasteless common denominator’ by standing up for the silent majority, its new chairman has declared.
Lord Patten said the corporation should listen to accusations that it is ‘drowning’ viewers and listeners with ‘prejudices’ and ‘stereotypes’ from the urban elite. In a plea for the broadcaster to become more representative of the licence fee payer, he said the ideas of the wider public ‘deserve to be considered and reflected’.
His comments will be seen as an attempt to address the long-standing claim that the BBC is guilty of a London-centric, Left-leaning bias which alienates large sections of the public.
On the issue of standards, Lord Patten added it would be an ‘act of treason’ if the BBC reduced quality to chase ratings.
Last night, giving the Royal Television Society’s Fleming Memorial Lecture 2011 – his maiden speech as chairman – Lord Patten also said criticism that the corporation was ‘not impartial’ should ‘keep us on our toes’.
Speaking last night, Lord Patten said public trust ‘suffers’ when corporate behaviour ‘doesn’t fit the ideal’ and the organisation needed to ‘distance itself from the market’.
His measures will also see the number of senior management roles reduced by almost two thirds from about 550 to 200. A freeze on bonuses for the board will be made permanent and private health insurance will be phased out for top bosses.
He said: ‘Waste, self-indulgence and inefficiency at the BBC are inexcusable, as they are anywhere else in the public sector … that’s why, watching from the outside, the issue of senior executive pay has looked so toxic for the institution as a whole.’
He insisted the broadcaster should reflect ‘the full breadth of opinion that exists on most controversial topics’.
And he said any mistakes in its reporting were an ‘assault on our own values’, warning that episodes like these risked undermining its ‘brave journalism’.
Referring to 19th-century French writer Gustave Flaubert, he said: ‘We should also listen hard to those who accuse us of drowning our viewers and listeners in a small metropolitan pond of stereotypes and prejudices, what Flaubert called “received ideas”. ‘The customarily “unreceived” deserve to be considered and reflected too. And audiences in every different part of the UK should feel the BBC is relevant to their everyday lives.’
The corporation has previously been accused of failing to represent views and lifestyles of rural viewers, often making them figures of fun, as in comedies such as The Vicar of Dibley.
BBC executives have also in the past conceded the corporation was guilty of promoting Left-wing views.
Lord Patten’s comments come after a BBC report in 2007 suggested the corporation was out of touch with large swathes of the public and guilty of self-censoring on subjects it found unpalatable. It warned that such behaviour would cause people to lose faith in the broadcaster.
Lord Patten said last night: ‘Public support is central to the BBC’s on-going success.’
The new chairman also issued a clarion call on high standards in the BBC’s output. ‘Above all, we should pay greatest heed to any justified assertion that we are guilty of descending to a tasteless common denominator,’ he stressed.
‘Were that to be true, it would be a real act of treason to all that we are supposed to stand for.’
The BBC has come under fire from viewers for derivative programmes and apparent attempts to chase ratings. Lord Patten said ‘political bias’ had been ‘the charge of almost every government since the BBC was founded’, but added that some criticism ‘should be taken very seriously’.
On its journalism he warned: ‘We should also take any mistakes in reporting, let alone the use of dubious evidence, as an assault on our own values. ‘The brave journalism that uncovers cruelty in a welfare home is devalued when we fall short of our own highest standards in other programmes.
‘Criticism that we are not impartial should keep us on our toes, determined to tell things as we see them while taking account of the full breadth of opinion that exists on most controversial topics.’
Sensitive or ‘taboo’ subjects such as immigration were avoided by the BBC, the corporation’s director-general admitted yesterday.
Mark Thompson conceded that the broadcaster had been ‘anxious’ in the past about playing into what it may have perceived to be a Right-wing political agenda. But he claimed it had now changed its position and was responsible for raising the topic of immigration during last year’s general election.
Mr Thompson added that the BBC had a duty to address ‘sensitive and difficult’ issues a ‘significant proportion’ of the public wanted to hear about.
In an article for the New Statesman magazine, he admitted: ‘There have been occasions, I believe, in the past, when the BBC has had limitations. ‘For example, I think there were some years when the BBC, like the rest of the UK media, was very reticent about talking about immigration.
‘There was an anxiety whether or not you might be playing into a political agenda if you did items about immigration.’ Mr Thompson went on to insist that he did not like the idea that certain subjects were ‘taboo’. He said: ‘In the 2010 election campaign, none of the parties was talking about immigration.
‘We believed we should deal with it, because the public – not everyone, but a significant proportion – was saying to us that it was a real issue. ‘We’ve got a duty, even if issues are sensitive and difficult to get right, to confront what the public want. I don’t like the idea of topics that are taboo.’
Last year, Mr Thompson accepted that the BBC had been guilty of ‘massive’ Left-wing bias.
And in 2007, a BBC Trust report criticised the corporation for coming late to several important stories, including Euroscepticism and immigration, which it described as ‘off limits’ in terms of a liberal-minded comfort zone.
Mr Thompson also defended the large numbers of journalists the BBC sends to events such as Glastonbury and the Olympics.
And he insisted that staff were low paid compared with other broadcasting organisations.
The BBC was criticised last month for sending 407 people to the Glastonbury festival – at a cost of £1.5million.
But the director-general said: ‘In the British press, the BBC sending a few hundred people to the Beijing Olympics was a national scandal. We sent about a tenth of the number sent by NBC, the U.S. broadcaster.
‘We’re known internationally for the small numbers of people we send, but in a newspaper 100 sounds like a lot, in the way £7million for taxis does. It depends on the context. We should make sure we’re doing these things with as few people as we can and I think we do.’
Ten great myths about Britain’s foreign aid: After Cameron described critics as ‘hard-hearted’, how your money is squandered
As he pledged to pour hundreds of millions more into propping up Afghanistan, David Cameron this week accused critics of his foreign aid policy of being ‘possibly hard-hearted’. The fact is we’ll soon be spending more on the Third World than on the Home Office and, while other budgets face cuts, overseas aid is being increased by billions. Here, IAN BIRRELL reveals what really happens to all that money ….
MYTH 1: We can afford to spend a few billion pounds to help the world’s poor
Defenders of aid say we have a moral duty to help those less fortunate and we are a rich country that can afford it. This argument is put forward by ministers and supporters such as the heiress Jemima Khan, who claims Britain is wealthy enough to spend such trifling sums on aid.
Here are the facts. When Tony Blair established the Department for International Development (DFID) as the political wing of the charity movement in 1997, its budget was £2.6 billion — more than twice the Foreign Office allocation.
Today, we spend £8.1 billion, which will increase to £11.4 billion in 2014 — a 34 per cent rise, despite spending cuts elsewhere.
Unsurprisingly, MPs are getting a growing postbag over this. We are giving more than £300 per household to the world’s poor while public sector jobs are lost and vital services for the elderly and disabled are closed. The head of the Royal Navy has warned there may not be enough money to pursue the war in Libya.
Four out of five voters oppose the cross-party consensus of increasing aid spending, according to a new YouGov@Cam survey. I share the ideals behind foreign aid — and, if it worked, I would say spend more. Unfortunately, the policy is based on old-fashioned concepts, outdated figures and all too often makes life worse, not better, for people in poorer nations.
MYTH 2: We must hit the UN target to give away 0.7 per cent of our GNP in aid
Ah yes, the sacred target. For a government promising to sweep away targets, the Coalition is strangely wedded to this particular one.
We’re handing over 0.56 per cent of national income — far more than our economic rivals. Germany contributes 0.38 per cent of its income, while we donate twice as much as Japan and five times as much as Italy.
But this target is absurd, arbitrary and outdated. It was first calculated more than four decades ago based on theoretical data from the Forties, and was the result of back-of-the-envelope calculations of the needs of poor countries.
Since then, Western economies have soared while many poor nations have stagnated.
Five years ago, the United Nations itself said the amount of aid really needed was 0.44 per cent of national income.
Development economists applying the original calculations to today’s world yielded an aid goal of just 0.01 per cent of rich countries’ gross domestic product (GNP).
MYTH 3: Aid works
The economist Peter Bauer famously said aid transfers cash from poor people in rich countries to rich people in poor countries. His words have been underlined by scores of studies that found idealism tempered by harsh reality.
Zambian economist Dambisa Moyo revealed the West had given more than half a trillion pounds to Africa, but over the past three decades the most aid-dependent recipients saw negative annual growth rates.
Haiti is another example. It was given official aid of more than £6 billion — four times as much per person as Europe received under the Marshall plan for post-war reconstruction — in the 50 years before last year’s earthquake.
Private aid poured in as well, with more charities operating in Haiti per capita than any other place on the globe. Despite this, income fell by a third.
It has, of course, endured despotic leaders, dreadful corruption and political unrest.
The same goes for the Dominican Republic, with which it shares an island — but while receiving far less aid, this nation saw incomes and life expectancy soar over this period.
MYTH 4: OK, it hasn’t worked in the past, but it will in the future
Whenever people point out that mountains of money have disappeared into thin air, the aid lobby says it has learned the lessons of the past.
So yes, cash funded dictators, fuelled corruption, fostered a dependency culture and aided genocidal killers, but things are different now. The new buzzword is ‘smart aid’.
To be fair to Andrew Mitchell, the international development secretary, he has stopped some of Labour’s most outrageous abuses, such as £115,000 spent on stalls at summer music festivals in Britain, and he is right to boost transparency and encourage trade. But the flawed fundamentals remain the same.
And his department’s top civil servant admitted this week the Government still has no idea how much money is being lost to fraud and corruption.
MYTH 5: We will ensure 100 pence of value for every £1 spent on aid
This was the message Mr Mitchell gave a sceptical Tory Party conference last year, which he repeated to an equally sceptical looking Jeremy Paxman on Newsnight last month. But it’s not true.
There have been many attempts to quantify how much Western aid really helps intended beneficiaries.
Generally, it is estimated by think-tanks and charities that the real figure is in the region of 40p in every pound, though British aid is seen as more cost-effective than most.
The rest is swallowed up by bureaucracy, corruption, consultants, charity costs and duplication between donors — bear in mind dozens of countries and thousands of charities give aid. Indeed, an African nation must waste precious resources churning out 10,000 action reports for aid donors a year.
One UN adviser looked into a house-building project in Bamiyan, Afghanistan, that began with £92 million in the bank. The job was sub-contracted so many times through agencies in Geneva, Washington and Kabul — each taking administration fees — that by the time the money got to those working on the project, they could afford to buy only some wooden beams from Iran.
They were delivered for five times the normal cost by a company owned by the Bamiyan governor, but turned out to be too heavy for village houses. So they ended up as firewood.
Or take India, which spends £1.5 billion a year on a space programme, but is still one of the biggest recipients of our aid.
The World Bank just carried out the first major evaluation of its aid programmes and found so much corruption that only 40 per cent of grain given to the poor reaches its target.
Parents’ fury as British school tells pupils: ‘You don’t need to take part in sports day if you don’t want to’
The thrill of competitive running on school sports days has been a spur for many future Olympic athletes. But at one politically correct primary school, children are being excused from such pressures.
Parents were astonished when a teacher with a loud-hailer announced all pupils could ‘opt out’ of the sprints if they wished and asked mothers and fathers to ‘respect their decision’. A significant number of the children remained sitting on the grass, drinking fizzy drinks while watching the action.
It was not the only departure from tradition at Newby and Scalby Primary School in Scarborough. Instead of an egg and spoon race, pupils took part in an egg balancing event in which they ‘raced’ one at a time against the clock to score team points rather than against each other.
To add to the protective nature of the event, any parents hoping to record their children’s exploits for posterity faced further disappointment as the head banned all photography for fear the images could be uploaded on to the internet and seen by paedophiles.
Commenting on the controversy, one parent said: ‘It was crazy. They will be asking the kids if they want to opt out of doing their sums next, or whether they want to learn to read and write.
‘In this competitive age, children need to be competitive. ‘Some of them just ended up sitting on the mats drinking fizzy drinks for the rest of the afternoon. I had never seen anything like it before. People were muttering and looking at each other. There was a lot of discontent in the ranks.’
The school has about 425 pupils aged five to 11 and sports days for each year are held on separate days because of the numbers involved. All the sports days are believed to have had the voluntary running race policy.
A parent who attended the event for nine-year-olds said up to 100 family members were there and many complained to each other. Most of those who refused to take part were boys.
Nick Seaton, of the Campaign for Real Education, said: ‘It’s a new one on me. There are some weird things going on in education. For health reasons you would think they would be making them do this.’
A North Yorkshire County Council spokesman said: ‘The school is proud of its record of children’s involvement in sport. ‘The events are organised so that all children take part, including those with disabilities.’