Four-fold rise in heart and cancer scan delays with NHS patients waiting more than six weeks
The number of patients facing lengthy delays for vital cancer tests and heart scans has quadrupled in the last year.
Last month around 12,500 people waited six weeks or longer for hospital checks to diagnose tumours and other serious illnesses.
This compares to 3,500 who were waiting more than six weeks in the same period last year, according to Department of Health figures.
It is further evidence that waiting times are going up across the Health Service with patients facing increasingly long delays for diagnoses and treatment.
Some doctors and senior managers blame financial cuts that have led to staffing freezes and redundancies.
The latest monthly figures from the Department of Health also show that in June some 1,763 patients waited more than 13 weeks for certain hospital checks. This has gone up by nine times compared to June last year when just 190 patients waited for this length of time.
The figures involve waiting times for MRI and CT scans, ultrasounds and colonoscopies which are all used to check for certain types of cancer.
They also include echocardiograms to diagnose heart disease, tests for kidney failure, scans for osteoporosis and checks to diagnose breathing problems during sleep.
The Government has promised to drastically improve patient care as part of its controversial health reforms, which centre on putting GPs in charge of buying-in treatments.
But Labour warn that the NHS is ‘going backwards’ under the Tories. Labour health spokesman John Healey said: ‘It is clear David Cameron’s reckless reorganisation of the Health Service is starting to impact on patient care.’
Dr Anna Dixon, of the King’s Fund think-tank, said: ‘While waiting times remain low in historical terms, the rise against a number of key measures since this time last year shows how difficult it will be for the NHS to meet the Prime Minister’s pledge to keep waiting times low as the spending squeeze begins to bite.’
Health minister Lord Howe said: ‘The number of people waiting over six weeks has come down since last month.
‘This was achieved despite increasing pressures on the NHS, with around 125,000 more diagnostic tests in the three months to June 2011 compared to the same period last year.
‘This shows why we need to modernise the NHS to protect it for future generations.’
London: Doling out excuses for the inexcusable
In trying to identify the causes of the London riots, we could start by reflecting on the comments from former Greater London Council police advisor Lee Jasper in analysing the mindset of the youths on the streets.
In a finger-pointing monologue on The 7.30 Report on Tuesday, Mr Jasper argued that the one group of people who should definitely not be blamed for the riots were the rioters themselves.
“We’ve seen huge levels of austerity cuts in many inner city areas that are leading to a great deal of anxiety and concern,” stated the one-time advisor to former London Mayor “Red” Ken Livingstone. “Unemployment continues to rise and there is a sense of anxiety but also a sense of moral crisis in the country. I think because of the MPs scandal, the corporate tax dodging issue of huge multinational companies, the News International corruption cases with the metropolitan police and phone hacking, there is a kind of failure really of people in power to uphold the kind of moral standards that we all aspire to. And as such, this has had an effect around the country.”
The first notable feature of Mr Jasper’s comments is that they afford a remarkably high level of current affairs knowledge to some of the dumbest and most disengaged people on the face of the earth. In the interviews this week none of the hooded hooligans were telling reporters that they had taken to the streets after reading the Telegraph’s expose of the House of Lords perks scandal – which happened four years ago anyway – or that they picked up a brick in frustration after watching James Murdoch’s evidence to the House of Commons inquiry on the BBC.
Second, Jasper’s comments sought to lend an activist quality to a civil disturbance which is campaigning for absolutely nothing, other than a free television and a shiny pair of sneakers.
This wasn’t a poll tax protest, it wasn’t a show of solidarity with the coal miners or the sacked printers, it wasn’t a G20 riot. At least burning down McDonalds outside a conference promoting free trade makes a crude kind of point.
This was simply an act of mass theft, violence and vandalism by people who, almost to a man, said that they were doing it for fun. It was the first bludger uprising the world has ever seen.
Thirdly, Jasper’s comments have at their centre a belief that, in this case, we are looking at a failure of government to do more. In reality these riots represent a failure of government to do less.
While there is enough material from the four days of rioting to sustain years of sociologists’ conferences, the key issue seems incredibly simple. If you tell several million people that they are under no obligation to work, to learn, to become socialised, and if your laws and your frazzled police and your packed courts don’t treat low-level crimes as crimes at all, you run a pretty obvious risk of ending up with the scenes that we saw this week. If you tell people that life is all take and no give then some of them will end up literally taking things off shop shelves.
One of the first priorities of David Cameron’s relatively new Tory Government has been to rein in the explosion in the British welfare system. Remarkably, one of the central proposals is to stop households receiving unemployment benefits which exceed the average weekly household wage. Remarkable in that things were ever allowed to get that out of hand, with such an enshrined disincentive towards work.
Cameron is a moderate conservative and his welfare overhaul is not extreme. One of his many fair-minded measures is that if you are able-bodied and offered a job but turn it down for no reason, you will be kicked off the dole for three months. This has been denounced as an act of brutality by the welfare lobby, in a country where the number of Britons in employment has fallen by 550,000 since 2004.
In a report on the reforms in The Daily Mail, the newspaper profiled a family in Anglesea, North Wales, Peter and Claire Davey, who have seven children aged two to 12 and receive £815 (AU$1288) a week in benefits. Mr Davey quit his job as an administrator after realising he and his family would be better off living on handouts. On the numbers it makes a sad kind of sense.
Within the welfare sector there is an unusual metric which holds that increases in government outlays on the dole and the pension are the best indicator of success in the portfolio. You see it here in Australia every year – if state or federal governments cut welfare spending in their budgets, even with the corresponding introduction of schemes to get people into work, groups such as ACOSS fire off accusations of heartlessness. These same groups have a broadly left-wing social agenda yet seem completely indifferent to the concept of the dignity of work, which was actually what Karl Marx spent his entire intellectual life working to achieve.
And then there are the likes of Lee Jasper playing the role of random excuse generator, handing out absurd alibis to those too dim to devise one for themselves. The perpetrators are the victims and government should have done more, when the mayhem created by these welfare-funded ratbags shows government has done far too much already.
Tough sentences? Forget it. These teen yobs will be treated as if THEY’RE the victims
David Cameron may have sounded tough this week, promising night curfews, tougher sentencing and new police powers in response to the outbreak of almost untrammelled anarchy in several of our cities.
Police leave has been cancelled and a crackdown on gangs announced. But the Prime Minister is sorely mistaken if he really thinks the rioters will be punished and made to pay for what they’ve done.
Why? Because the criminal justice system in this country is broken. From my experience as a youth offender worker, little, if anything, will happen to the young people who participated in the riots around the country this week. And what’s worse — they know it.
One 15-year-old looter quoted in yesterday’s Mail summed up the defiance: ‘They can’t touch me, I’m still a kid…. what is the worst they can do? Give me a caution or a curfew I won’t obey.’
Sadly, he’s absolutely right. While magistrates yesterday did seem to be cracking down on adult offenders, some of whom will get custodial sentences, almost everyone under 18 will end up with the ultra-soft, kid-gloves treatment I’ve seen being handed out on a daily basis.
Figures released so far suggest that could apply to as many as half of those appearing in magistrates’ courts this week.
In an extraordinary perversion of justice, those underage rioters will be treated as if they are the victims of the very crimes they have committed.
Only a few will be given custodial sentences. The whole ethos of the youth justice system is to avoid incarcerating offenders — not least because there isn’t the physical capacity to house them all.
Even those who are imprisoned will spend their days watching TV and playing video games. A colleague working in a youth detention centre recently told me he is no longer allowed to call their rooms ‘cells’ because it infringed their human rights. And these were offenders who’d done very bad things, including sexual assault and extreme violence.
The other underage rioters will be sent on an Intensive Surveillance and Supervision Programme (ISSP) — the laughable sentence that is the most rigorous non-custodial punishment young offenders can receive. It’s designed to take them from their criminal environment and show them they can have a future on the straight and narrow.
What they’ll actually do is spend the majority of their ‘sentence’ escorted by youth workers — whose wages are paid by the state — to gyms, adventure centres and even DJ-ing courses. Already this week, we’ve read about a group of offenders like this who were taken on a day trip to Alton Towers.
These violent youths will have their lunches bought and paid for, and even be given bus fares to attend their ‘punishment’.
The surveillance element is worthless. Some offenders will be tagged and under curfew. If a tag is broken, a private security firm alerts the youth offender service, which alerts the police. In the time that takes, the offender can have carried out any number of crimes.
ISSPs are also supposed to involve community service, but often there is none at all. I know people in the Manchester Youth Offending Team who were reduced to driving offenders around for hours to fill up the time, because no community work had been arranged.
Instead, the programme usually amounts to no more than enforced leisure: football and tennis on Monday, boxing and squash on Tuesday.
One day, we took ten offenders to an indoor rock climbing centre. Each of them had a conviction for burglary — in effect, we were just improving their breaking and entering skills.
On another occasion, we drove a group to a youth club with a music studio. There they spent the morning listening to hip-hop, posing as gangsta rappers. When they got bored, they amused themselves by playing pool or being rude to the staff.
At lunchtime, the offenders gave individual orders for takeaways from a chip shop. Once the food arrived — delivered by a member of staff as though he were their butler — they fell on it like ravenous wolves, without the slightest restraint or manners, screeching foul abuse if their order was wrong. They then spent the afternoon on PlayStations or playing on Nintendo Wii games consoles.
Occasionally, these activities will be broken up by classroom exercises in a youth centre, pointless sessions where offenders’ ‘needs’ are assessed — where they are viewed as children, as opposed to people who have done something very wrong.
‘How are you feeling?’ they’re asked. ‘Are you feeling better?’
Who cares how they feel? The offenders I saw had broken into old ladies’ houses. What about the feelings of the decent, predominantly working-class victims of this new criminal underclass? The victims of the looters and arsonists this week, for example, who may have seen their livelihoods or homes destroyed.
Sometimes the offenders will hijack the classroom exercises themselves. In a recent session on homophobia, several members of the class were causing disruption. Eventually, the frustrated youth worker asked the ringleader to come up to the front and take over the class.
With relish, the chief culprit launched into an offensive comic routine about different types of homosexual. Afterwards, the youth worker boasted to me that the lesson had been a great success because the class was ‘engaged’, despite surrendering her authority.
I’m not an enthusiast for excessive punishment, particularly not for young offenders — who often hail from deprived backgrounds or dysfunctional families. But what I have experienced shows that the current, ultra-lenient approach is a disaster. It is hopelessly unbalanced, providing neither discipline nor boundaries.
The appalling message to juvenile criminals is they have nothing to fear from the courts or penal bodies. Far from being made to pay for their crimes, they are often rewarded.
I have escorted a 16-year-old, unemployed, criminal teenager by taxi from his home to the benefits office so he could sign on for the dole, even though he lived only ten minutes away by foot. He was from a large Albanian family of Romany gypsies who had come to Britain seeking asylum, but each had ended up involved in criminal activities, including violent muggings and burglary.
Despite his criminal conduct — because of it, in fact — the local youth offending team was desperate for him to claim as many benefits as possible, even laying on transport.
The bizarre logic, as it was put to me, was that poverty was the cause of his illegal actions (a trite and misguided argument trotted out this week by bleeding heart liberals in defence of the looters).
In the words of the youth worker: ‘We need to work with him to remove the underlying causes of his criminal behaviour’, by ensuring he received ‘all the benefits that are entitled to him, his partner and future baby.’ (He had got his Bulgarian girlfriend pregnant.)
My colleague’s worry was that, if this support, including the taxi service, were not provided, the Albanian would slide back into a life of crime; even though she knew, from his expensive clothes, that he earned so much from crime he didn’t even need those benefits.
Some of this week’s rioters, having been processed by the courts, will end up doing ‘poster work’, where they will draw and colour in examples of criminal behaviour — just in case they’re not aware that torching local businesses and throwing masonry at the police, fire brigade and passers-by are criminal acts.
One recent offender made a mockery of the programme by producing large drawings of cannabis joints. He received no punishment.
Is it any wonder we have such high rates of recidivism among more serious young criminals? Many of the rioters you saw on the streets will have been through the system already. They know that there are no real consequences for their actions.
Some of the young thugs who’ve been interviewed said they did it because the Government and the police couldn’t stop them. And they are dead right. There are no boundaries to their actions, with or without any supposed crackdown by David Cameron. And so they will riot again.
When social mobility meant something
Encouraging social mobility has become a watchword of the political class for the past 15 years or so. Whether it is bribing working-class teens to stay on at school or making internships ‘open to all’, everybody wants to help ‘the poor’ to help themselves. The death this week of English novelist Stan Barstow is perhaps a reminder of when and why social mobility had real meaning in British society.
Barstow, who died aged 83, belonged to a pioneering set of working-class writers who chronicled new opportunities available to working-class youth in the late 1950s. Alongside his peers Alan Sillitoe, John Braine and Keith Waterhouse, Barstow was successful enough to avoid factory sweat and toil in the process as well. It led arch conservative Evelyn Waugh to complain about ‘these grim young people coming off the assembly lines in their hundreds every year and finding employment as critics, even as poets and novelists’ (1). It seems social mobility wasn’t always encouraged by the well-to-do after all.
Barstow was born in Horbury, a railway town on the outskirts of Wakefield in West Yorkshire. His father was a coalminer and the household was barely literate – not exactly the most promising background for an aspiring writer. Nevertheless, Barstow had already managed a modicum of social mobility through attending grammar school and becoming a draughtsman in a nearby engineering firm. As a result, he quickly experienced a tension and resentment between his new-found middle-class occupation and his working-class background – a tension brilliantly explored in his most famous novel, A Kind of Loving.
Set in West Yorkshire in the late 1950s, A Kind of Loving follows the ‘shotgun wedding’ and marriage between draughtsman Vic Brown and company typist Ingrid Rothwell. At the time, its frank depiction of sex and marriage among the northern working class made it a literary breakthrough. It was also subtle and complex enough to stand out within the slightly over-crowded ‘kitchen sink’ genre. Whereas Arthur Seaton in Saturday Night, Sunday Morning crackled with an incoherent rage against the post-war consensus, and Joe Lampton in Room at the Top rails against white collar ‘zombies’, Vic Brown appears pragmatically happy with what postwar Britain has to offer.
Underneath it all, though, Brown wrestles with his conscience: between wanting to uphold traditional values (getting married) and new-found sexual freedom (extra-marital affairs); between loyalty to working-class communal mores and the desire to broaden his horizons. Brown’s contradictory feelings for Ingrid – one minute infatuated, the next minute infuriated – reflect the pull of these new and alien social influences. In an earlier period, marrying such a gorgeous girl as Ingrid and having kids would be as good as it gets in West Yorkshire.
Barstow’s skill as a writer was to shed light on the confused inner world of the ambitious working classes of the period and, in the process, highlight broader social changes. In particular, the tortuous contradictions of class identity that Brown experienced anticipate such preoccupations for the ‘affluent worker’ that became sociologically documented in the early 1970s. A Kind of Loving was also fortuitous in recognising how despised the aspirational working-classes would eventually become. Not only is Vic Brown an effete draftsman, but he is also passionate and knowledgeable about classical music and literature. For his dreadful mother-in-law, Mrs Rothwell, this is a transparent ‘affectation’ and ‘our Ingrid’ doesn’t need to put on such ‘airs and graces’. She scornfully says the ‘airs and graces’ phrase so often that Vic wearily ends up repeating it for her. Far from Vic ‘not being good enough’ for Ingrid, these pretensions and ambitions mark him out as being ‘unworthy’. Fifty years on from Mrs Rothwell’s ethos of ‘know-your-place’, disdain for working-class aspiration has a surprising degree of cultural and political resonance today.
Barstow eloquently explored these themes with equal conviction in Watchers on the Shore (1966) and, a decade later, The Right True End. All three novels were adapted for a Granada TV series in 1982 starring Clive Wood and 17-year-old debutant Joanne Whalley. A trilogy set in the 1940s, Just You Wait and See (1986), Give Us This Day (1989) and Next of Kin (1991), appeared without generating much literary interest, but Barstow’s name was still instantly recognisable.
Barstow came of age long before Sure Start, education maintenance allowance (EMA) or patronising sermons from the political class on facilitating social mobility. Going to university wasn’t presented then as a life-or-career-death ‘option’ in the way it is now. What you did have, though, was a broad acceptance of the value of learning and high culture, reflected in the autodidacticism that influenced Barstow and his novels. Today, no amount of official ‘aim higher’ initiatives can compensate for the demise of such social and individual aspiration. You only have to re-read A Kind of Loving to understand that.
FINGERS IN PIES…
There is an amusing side to this. “Green” investments are based on false assumptions so will probably go broke. And that will take the retirement funds of the BBC staffers with it
Guess what? The man responsible for looking after the fat pensions of the boys and girls at the BBC is a climate change fanatic, and he is part of an international group of investment managers who bust a gut to invest in ‘climate change’ schemes. He’s called Peter Dunscombe, and he runs the œ8.2bn corporation pension fund, advising trustees on a day-to-day basis about their investments. Mr Dunscombe, who addresses conferences about ‘ethical investments’, is also chairman of the Institutional Investment Group on Climate Change(IIGCC), which has 47 members and manages four trillion euros’ worth of investments; yes, four trillion. Their goal is to find as many ‘climate change’ investment opportunities as possible:
The IIGCC Investor Statement on Climate change was launched in October 2006. Asset owners and asset managers who signed the Statement committed to increasing their focus on climate change in their own processes and in their engagement with companies and governments.
So now we really know why BBC staffers are so fanatical about ‘climate change’. It’s naked self-interest. In 2008, there were 18,736 contributors to the BBC pension fund; every man jack of them benefits from climate alarmism.
Update: I’ve been going through the latest BBC Pensions Trust report, and it reveals that Helen Boaden, who is the overall boss of the BBC’s news and current affairs operation, was appointed to the trust in 2008. So the woman who tells environment reporters such as Roger Harrabin and Richard Black that the science is settled also works to maximise the returns of the pension fund with Peter Dunscombe. I thought that needed spelling out fully, just in case any subtleties might be missed.