IVF clinic blunders treble in three years as ten mistakes every week bring heartbreak to couples
Since my brilliant 24 year-old son was an IVF conception — via a 1st class Australian private clinic — I feel greatly grieved to hear of the careless treatment that British couples are getting — JR
Childless couples are having their hopes of a baby wrecked by soaring numbers of mistakes at fertility clinics. Some 564 serious errors or ‘near misses’ occurred at centres in Britain last year – more than ten every week. The figures have trebled since 2007, raising concerns over the standards of clinics.
There is also suspicion that the Government watchdog – the Human Fertility and Embryology Association – is not properly regulating the industry and forcing failing centres to close. [The HFEA spends all its energies persecuting first class private IVF clinics such as Dr. Taranissi’s. Taranissi’s success rates show up the NHS for the 4th rate operation that it is]
Figures from the HFEA also reveal that the number of very serious ‘Category A or B’ blunders has increased more than fourfold since 2008. Some 275 were reported in the last 12 months compared with just 62 in 2007-08.
Such mistakes include the wrong sperm being injected into an egg, embryos accidentally being destroyed or in some cases even implanted into another woman. In 2009 the Daily Mail revealed how one white British couple were bringing up a mixed-race child after the wrong sperm was used during IVF.
In another mix-up a couple were left heartbroken after their last remaining embryo was implanted into the wrong woman, who later terminated the pregnancy.
The demand for fertility treatment has soared since the 1990s as more and more women delay motherhood to pursue their careers. But in the last few years it has begun to level off and just under 40,000 couples had IVF last year, up from 38,000 in 2008. This slight increase cannot explain why the number of mishaps has trebled over the same time period.
Experts fear the watchdog is not properly investigating serious errors so they are simply being allowed to happen again. There are also concerns that clinics are understaffed and are using out-dated equipment, making mistakes far more likely.
Guy Forster, a solicitor from Irwin Mitchell, who specialises in negligence cases involving IVF, said: ‘As a solicitor, the incidents that I continue to see appear to flow from the same old problems of inadequate systems compounded by human error. ‘These types of mistakes cause unimaginable heartache and anguish to couples longing for a baby.’
Mr Forster added: ‘The public should have full confidence that any errors which occur are properly acted upon and, most importantly, that clinics learn from their mistakes. ‘When patients choose to undergo IVF treatment they have the right to know if their clinic has a poor record of incidents, in the same way that clinics are keen to promote their success rates. ‘At the same time they deserve to know that the HFEA will act to uphold patient safety standards across the industry.’
Gedis Grudzinskas, a consultant in infertility and gynaecology at London Bridge Hospital and Princess Grace Hospital, said: ‘The worry is that these mistakes are due to failings at fertility clinics, possibly caused by inadequate resources. ‘These mistakes are avoidable. Each time an error happens at a clinic it should present evidence to the HFEA about how its system is going to be used.’
Mr Grudzinskas added: ‘If a clinic has a high rate of mishaps then it is clear it is not able to improve. ‘In such cases its licence should be suspended.’
Last night a spokesman for the HFEA said it ‘openly encourages the reporting of incidents and continues to work closely with centres to improve quality’.
The spokesman added: ‘As a result, centres are continuing to respond positively to the opportunity to share lessons learned from incidents which have been reviewed and vigorously investigated.’ [Bullsh*t, Bullsh*t, Bullsh*t]
Number of patients waiting four hours in A&E has DOUBLED
The number of patients waiting for more than four hours in hospital accident and emergency departments has almost doubled – despite an overall drop in attendances.
Data from the Department of Health revealed that from April to June this year 165,279 spent longer than four hours in A&E and minor injury units without being seen. The figure is almost twice the 86,626 who faced similar delays in the same period last year.
And the statistics, for England, also showed how the total number of those attending A&E fell from 5.53million to 5.49million in the two quarters being compared.
Overall, 98.43 per cent of people were seen in A&E within four hours in the three-month period in 2010. This year, that percentage dropped to 96.99.
The fall comes after Health Secretary Andrew Lansley last year reduced the target for the proportion of patients to be seen within four hours from 98 per cent to 95 per cent.
Earlier this year official targets were scrapped, but quality indicators say hospitals should aim to see 95 per cent of patients within four hours.
The move to axe the target was welcomed by some medical organisations, who saw it as a blunt instrument. Others said it would inevitably lead to longer waits. But the Department of Health said last night: ‘These figures show that the vast majority of patients, 97 per cent, are still being seen at A&E within four hours.
‘We replaced the old four-hour A&E target because doctors said it was not in patients’ best interests. For the first time, we are measuring the overall quality of care in A&E, as well as the time spent in A&E, which allows doctors to decide what is best for their patients. ‘These figures confirm that, through this change, waiting times remain low and stable.’
Figures released earlier this week showed the number waiting more than six weeks for key NHS tests has almost quadrupled in a year.
In June, there were 12,521 waiting more than six weeks for one of 15 key tests – including MRI, CT and heart scans, ultrasound, barium enemas and colonoscopies – compared with 3,510 waiting more than six weeks in the same month last year.
There has also been a nine-fold increase in the number waiting more than 13 weeks for one of the tests. In June, there were 1,763 waiting more than 13 weeks, up from just 190 in June last year.
Overall, the number of diagnostic tests carried out between April last year and March rose 2.8 per cent over the previous year, to 38.8million.
Legacy of a society that believes in nothing
For many years now British schoolkids have been told by their Leftist teachers that “There is no such thing as right and wrong”. We should not be surprised that some of the kids now believe that
Raw with grief, in a voice steady but tight with emotion, his appeal for calm on Wednesday was a beacon of hope amid the tumult and carnage of a horribly dark week for Britain.
Hours before he spoke, Tariq Jahan had lost his 21-year-old son Haroon, murdered in the Winson Green area of Birmingham by [black] thugs who drove at him in their car in what appears to have been a racist attack.
No one could be more aware of the simmering racial tensions between Asians in his neighbourhood and those of Caribbean ancestry.
Yet Mr Jahan had the dignity, the compassion and the common sense to demand an end to the violence that had shattered his life. ‘Blacks, Asians, whites — we all live in the same community,’ he said. ‘Why do we have to kill one another? Why are we doing this? Step forward if you want to lose your sons. Otherwise, calm down and go home — please.’
There was no mention of feral rats or of the sickness in our society. There were no calls for revenge. If he had screamed for retribution, if he had chosen the emotional occasion of his son’s death to denounce whole swathes of the community, there could easily have been an unspeakable outbreak of racial violence.
Instead, Mr Jahan made an open and straightforward declaration of his faith. ‘I’m a Muslim. I believe in divine fate and destiny, and it was his destiny and his fate, and now he’s gone,’ he said. ‘And may Allah forgive him and bless him.’
It was a solemn, peaceful message that will make everyone who stereotypes Muslims as terrorists and fanatics feel ashamed of themselves. Tariq Jahan is a deeply impressive man, and like the great majority of Muslims in this country, he is hard-working, clean-living, guided in his conduct by religious belief, and unshakeable in his devotion to the ideal of family life.
In London at the height of the riots, we saw another clear expression of faith when more than 700 Sikhs lined up to defend their temples from potential arsonists in the suburb of Southall to the west of the capital. The Sikhs have a proud tradition of valuing each human being, male and female, as equal in God’s eyes. Theirs is a religion in which family is paramount.
We do not know the size of the bank balance of those Sikhs, any more than we know how wealthy are the Muslims of Winson Green. From looking at the streets and houses where they live, and the shops where they buy their food, it is safe to assume that they are not rich.
It is probable, too, that their teenagers would like to have large-screen televisions and fashionable trainers and BlackBerries.
But you can pretty well guarantee they would not have been among the looters. Instilled into them would have been the importance of working hard for money to buy these things, rather than hurling a brick through a shop window to help themselves.
Paramount among their moral values would be concern for others, a sense of altruism that could not be more different from the sense of self-entitlement that been so grotesquely on display this week. The reason for this is that they are from religious families.
All the main religions are unshakeable when it comes to self-evident truths about right and wrong; about stealing, harming others, coveting goods, instant gratification and so on.
‘Two things fill the mind with ever new and increasing wonder and awe, the more often and the more seriously reflection concentrates upon them: the starry heaven above me and the moral law within me’. So wrote the greatest philosopher of the 18th-century, Immanuel Kant, in 1788 in his work of moral philosophy, the Critique of Practical Reason.
It was in 1991 — and the memory is still vivid — that I interviewed Immanuel Jakobovits on his retirement as Chief Rabbi in Britain, and he told me that it was on the basis of Kant’s quotation that his father had named him Immanuel.
During that interview, Rabbi Jakobovits — who died in Israel in 1999 and was said to have been Margaret Thatcher’s favourite clergyman — stressed the absolute centrality of family life to our learning the paths of virtue.
His parting message as he retired, not only to the Jewish community but also to the British people, was that marriage and family life need to be learned; that if necessary we should have classes for young people, teaching them the importance of family life, of how to bring up children, how to discipline them kindly but firmly, and how to instil the sense of that moral law within.
Without that sense, human life falls into absolute chaos, anarchy, and unpleasantness. Yet in our secular age — an age in which, tragically, the Church of England appears to do little more than wring its hands as congregation numbers plummet — this moral bedrock is being steadily eroded.
Today, we live in a society where religion is something for which apologies must be made.
A Christian woman working for British Airways who wears a cross round her neck is asked to remove it for fear of offending other people. A nurse who prays with a patient in hospital is committing an almost criminal act. Catholic adoption agencies which disapprove of gay adoptive parents on religious grounds have their licences taken away.
And all the while, our governing classes and academics and teachers chip away at the fundamental truths of the great religions — truths that have stood the test of time for thousands of years — in their arrogant certainty that there are no moral absolutes and that the human race can make up the rules as it goes along.
At the nuttier fringes of the chattering classes there are those, like the geneticist Richard Dawkins and the journalist Christopher Hitchens, who actually believe that religion is a mental poison responsible for all the evils in the world.
The misguided and vacuous thinking of these so-called intellectuals is compounded by a sordid celebrity-culture which holds up role models who should be despised rather than admired.
Amy Winehouse, a pathetic drug-infused alcoholic girl of very modest talent, is held up as great diva; and when she died, her house was surrounded by fans, laying empty vodka bottles as a ‘tribute’.
Jade Goody, the foul-mouthed, racist daughter of a pimp and drug-pusher who died of a heroin overdose in the lavatory of a Kentucky Fried Chicken, appears on Big Brother and becomes a heroine despite — or because of — her ignorance and tendency to strip off in front of the cameras.
Fornicating footballers, who swagger through public lives dripping with gold and jewellery, parading the vulgar acquisitions of their vast wealth — whether it is fleets of fast cars or call girls, are venerated by generations who have never so much as heard of the very real heroes of history.
In the absence of a moral law, we see a decline in standards in all walks of life. Bankers continue to fill their boots even after they have brought the country to the brink of bankruptcy; politicians fiddle expenses and see no reason to resign when they have committed wrongdoings; town hall fat cats pay themselves ever greater salaries as Britain slips further into debt.
By contrast, every day, Muslim men like Tariq Jahan go to the mosque and fall prostrate before the mystery which Immanuel Kant knew lay at the heart of existence.
The Sikhs likewise build temples because they feel awe at the starry heavens above them and the moral laws within their hearts — laws which all men, women and children can recognise when they reflect deeply and in silence.
The catalogue of the great men and women in the past hundred or so years — from Leo Tolstoy in Russia, to Mahatma Gandhi in India, from the Lutheran student Sophie Scholl executed by guillotine aged 22 for her part in a resistance movement to Hitler, to Archbishop Tutu presiding over the peaceful Truth and Reconciliation committees in South Africa — has been the same.
All these people have held fast to values which they believed ultimately to be eternal and God-given.
Go back 100 years to Winson Green, to Southall, and to Wolverhampton, and to all the other scenes of urban violence scarred by horror in the last week.
The years before and after World War I were marked, for the people who lived in these places, by very great economic hardship. The poverty endured by the inhabitants of Liverpool, Manchester and Birmingham and the poor parts of London led to great programmes of political and social reform.
But the crime rate among the people themselves was much, much lower than it is today. All sorts of reasons have been adduced for this. But there is surely a very simple one that towers over all the others. In each of these places, there were chapels, often Methodist, which kept alive the human capacity for awe at the starry heavens above and the moral law within.
Not everyone attended the services, though thousands did. Nearly everyone, however, in these communities, whether church or chapel, subscribed to the idea that Good and Evil are given things, not human inventions.
The Jewish religion of Lord Jakobovits told the story of the Law of God being written in stone on the mountain-side of Sinai, and delivered to Moses. Some people choose to believe this happened literally as an historical event.
In a memorable episode of Radio 4’s The Moral Maze, over 20 years ago, historian David Starkey (an atheist) ribbed Rabbi Hugo Gryn about this. The Rabbi took the teasing in good part of course, but as someone who as a child had been interned in Auschwitz, he knew what a society could be like if it embraced the motto of Milton’s Satan, ‘Evil be thou my Good’.
He knew that whatever the historical truth about the Sinai story in the Book of Exodus, there was an absolute truth in the words Thou Shalt Do No Murder, Thou Shall Not Steal, and Honour thy Father and thy Mother. He’d lived in a country ruled over by a satanic Nazi dictator who thought you could disregard moral truth.
I suspect that when time passes and we look back on this week, it is the religious sincerity of Tariq Jahan that we shall remember. All of us — Muslims, Sikhs, Jews, Hindus, Christians — have a rich religious inheritance.
At the core of this inheritance is a sense of right and wrong. And in all these religions, the school where we learn of right and wrong is the family. Muslims, Jews, Sikhs and Hindus have all, very noticeably, retained this twin strand of family structure and ethical teaching.
Faith in Christianity itself began to unravel long ago, and the majority of those whose forebears were Christian are now completely secular. They would not even recognise simple Bible stories.
The events of the past week have shown the enormous value of a living religious faith.
Not only was Tariq Jahan more impressive than any of the commentators or politicians who spouted on the airwaves this week. He was more human.
By his religious response to his son’s death, he humanised not only the dreadful and immediate tragedy. He showed us that without a religion we are all less than human.
Historian Starkey says: Enoch Powell was right with infamous ‘rivers of blood’ speech
“As I look ahead, I am filled with foreboding; like the Roman, I seem to see ‘the River Tiber foaming with much blood” — E. Powell, 1968
Historian David Starkey sparked outrage last night by claiming that Enoch Powell’s ‘rivers of blood’ speech had been right and blaming ‘black culture’ for the riots. He said white youths had adopted a black culture which promoted the violence and looting.
Mr Starkey claimed Powell’s infamous 1968 speech had been right in one sense, but it wasn’t inter-communal violence that was the problem.
‘The substantial section of the chavs have become black, the whites have become black,’ he told Newsnight on BBC 2. ‘A particular sort of violent, destructive, nihilistic gangster culture has become fashion, and the black and white, boy and girl, operate in this language together. ‘This language is wholly false. It is a Jamaican patois that has intruded in England, which is why so many of us have this sense that we are literally living in a foreign country. ‘It is about black culture, that is the enormously important thing, it is not skin colour, it is culture.’
When challenged by fellow guest Dreda Say Mitchell, a black author and broadcaster, Mr Starkey defended his comments by saying: ‘At these times we need plain speaking.’
Within minutes of the broadcast, Twitter was flooded with comments accusing the historian of blatant racism. One tweet said: ‘“The problem is that the whites have become black”, David Starkey tells #newsnight – close to inciting racial hatred. Awful!’
Another commented sarcastically: ‘I don’t hate David Starkey, some of my best friends are racist historians.’ A third added: ‘This week has brought the boggle eyed racist nut in certain people spluttering out.’
Powell fuelled controversy as a Tory MP in 1968 when he warned about apocalyptic consequences if immigration was allowed to rise unchecked. Although the phrase ‘rivers of blood’ does not appear in the speech, it does include the line, ‘As I look ahead, I am filled with foreboding; like the Roman, I seem to see the River Tiber foaming with much blood’.
Acid-tongued Mr Starkey has been dubbed the ‘rudest man in Britain’. He once described the Queen as a housewife who ‘lacks a serious education’ and called Scotland, Wales and Ireland ‘feeble little countries’.
Starkey might have noted that the initial riots in London seem to have been almost entirely by blacks
The moral decay of our society is as bad at the top as the bottom
David Cameron, Ed Miliband and the entire British political class came together yesterday to denounce the rioters. They were of course right to say that the actions of these looters, arsonists and muggers were abhorrent and criminal, and that the police should be given more support.
But there was also something very phony and hypocritical about all the shock and outrage expressed in parliament. MPs spoke about the week’s dreadful events as if they were nothing to do with them.
I cannot accept that this is the case. Indeed, I believe that the criminality in our streets cannot be dissociated from the moral disintegration in the highest ranks of modern British society. The last two decades have seen a terrifying decline in standards among the British governing elite. It has become acceptable for our politicians to lie and to cheat. An almost universal culture of selfishness and greed has grown up.
It is not just the feral youth of Tottenham who have forgotten they have duties as well as rights. So have the feral rich of Chelsea and Kensington. A few years ago, my wife and I went to a dinner party in a large house in west London. A security guard prowled along the street outside, and there was much talk of the “north-south divide”, which I took literally for a while until I realised that my hosts were facetiously referring to the difference between those who lived north and south of Kensington High Street.
Most of the people in this very expensive street were every bit as deracinated and cut off from the rest of Britain as the young, unemployed men and women who have caused such terrible damage over the last few days. For them, the repellent Financial Times magazine How to Spend It is a bible. I’d guess that few of them bother to pay British tax if they can avoid it, and that fewer still feel the sense of obligation to society that only a few decades ago came naturally to the wealthy and better off.
Yet we celebrate people who live empty lives like this. A few weeks ago, I noticed an item in a newspaper saying that the business tycoon Sir Richard Branson was thinking of moving his headquarters to Switzerland. This move was represented as a potential blow to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne, because it meant less tax revenue.
I couldn’t help thinking that in a sane and decent world such a move would be a blow to Sir Richard, not the Chancellor. People would note that a prominent and wealthy businessman was avoiding British tax and think less of him. Instead, he has a knighthood and is widely feted. The same is true of the brilliant retailer Sir Philip Green. Sir Philip’s businesses could never survive but for Britain’s famous social and political stability, our transport system to shift his goods and our schools to educate his workers.
Yet Sir Philip, who a few years ago sent an extraordinary £1 billion dividend offshore, seems to have little intention of paying for much of this. Why does nobody get angry or hold him culpable? I know that he employs expensive tax lawyers and that everything he does is legal, but he surely faces ethical and moral questions just as much as does a young thug who breaks into one of Sir Philip’s shops and steals from it?
Our politicians – standing sanctimoniously on their hind legs in the Commons yesterday – are just as bad. They have shown themselves prepared to ignore common decency and, in some cases, to break the law. David Cameron is happy to have some of the worst offenders in his Cabinet. Take the example of Francis Maude, who is charged with tackling public sector waste – which trade unions say is a euphemism for waging war on low‑paid workers. Yet Mr Maude made tens of thousands of pounds by breaching the spirit, though not the law, surrounding MPs’ allowances.
A great deal has been made over the past few days of the greed of the rioters for consumer goods, not least by Rotherham MP Denis MacShane who accurately remarked, “What the looters wanted was for a few minutes to enter the world of Sloane Street consumption.” This from a man who notoriously claimed £5,900 for eight laptops. Of course, as an MP he obtained these laptops legally through his expenses.
Yesterday, the veteran Labour MP Gerald Kaufman asked the Prime Minister to consider how these rioters can be “reclaimed” by society. Yes, this is indeed the same Gerald Kaufman who submitted a claim for three months’ expenses totalling £14,301.60, which included £8,865 for a Bang & Olufsen television.
Or take the Salford MP Hazel Blears, who has been loudly calling for draconian action against the looters. I find it very hard to make any kind of ethical distinction between Blears’s expense cheating and tax avoidance, and the straight robbery carried out by the looters.
The Prime Minister showed no sign that he understood that something stank about yesterday’s Commons debate. He spoke of morality, but only as something which applies to the very poor: “We will restore a stronger sense of morality and responsibility – in every town, in every street and in every estate.” He appeared not to grasp that this should apply to the rich and powerful as well.
The tragic truth is that Mr Cameron is himself guilty of failing this test. It is scarcely six weeks since he jauntily turned up at the News International summer party, even though the media group was at the time subject to not one but two police investigations. Even more notoriously, he awarded a senior Downing Street job to the former News of the World editor Andy Coulson, even though he knew at the time that Coulson had resigned after criminal acts were committed under his editorship. The Prime Minister excused his wretched judgment by proclaiming that “everybody deserves a second chance”. It was very telling yesterday that he did not talk of second chances as he pledged exemplary punishment for the rioters and looters.
These double standards from Downing Street are symptomatic of widespread double standards at the very top of our society. It should be stressed that most people (including, I know, Telegraph readers) continue to believe in honesty, decency, hard work, and putting back into society at least as much as they take out.
But there are those who do not. Certainly, the so-called feral youth seem oblivious to decency and morality. But so are the venal rich and powerful – too many of our bankers, footballers, wealthy businessmen and politicians.
Of course, most of them are smart and wealthy enough to make sure that they obey the law. That cannot be said of the sad young men and women, without hope or aspiration, who have caused such mayhem and chaos over the past few days. But the rioters have this defence: they are just following the example set by senior and respected figures in society. Let’s bear in mind that many of the youths in our inner cities have never been trained in decent values. All they have ever known is barbarism. Our politicians and bankers, in sharp contrast, tend to have been to good schools and universities and to have been given every opportunity in life.
Something has gone horribly wrong in Britain. If we are ever to confront the problems which have been exposed in the past week, it is essential to bear in mind that they do not only exist in inner-city housing estates.
The culture of greed and impunity we are witnessing on our TV screens stretches right up into corporate boardrooms and the Cabinet. It embraces the police and large parts of our media. It is not just its damaged youth, but Britain itself that needs a moral reformation.
British university ‘cannot be too choosy over postgraduates’
A top university was criticised today after academics were told they “cannot afford to be very choosy” when it comes to recruiting students. Birmingham – a member of the elite Russell Group – came under fire when it emerged a senior don had emailed colleagues telling them to go to desperate lengths to enrol large numbers of lucrative postgraduates.
Prof Helen Beebee, head of Birmingham’s school of philosophy, theology and religion, said more students were needed to avoid being fined by the university for under-recruiting.
In the memo, she urged staff to be “VERY generous” when assessing applications from postgraduate students, suggesting candidates should be given places even if they are not totally up to the demands of the course.
The comments will fuel concerns that universities are being forced to give special treatment to postgraduate and foreign students – who pay far more than British undergraduates – to boost their income.
Most postgraduates at Birmingham can expect to pay at least £4,650 from September, rising to £15,660 for foreign postgraduate students.
But Malcolm McCrae, chairman of the UK Council for Graduate Education, branded the email “unfortunate and ill-considered”, suggesting that students risked being accepted onto courses that they could not handle.
“It is well known that students whose capabilities are not on a par with the demands of the programme they are following always turn out to be much more work, accentuating the pressure to compromise academic standards in an effort to get already recruited students through to…completion,” he told Times Higher Education magazine.
Prof Beebee wrote to colleagues at the end of July telling them that Birmingham’s college of arts – which incorporates the school of philosophy – was facing a £1m fine from the university’s finance chiefs for failing to recruit enough students.
The email – leaked to the Times Higher – urges academics to be “VERY generous in your judgement about whether the candidate is capable of undertaking the programme applied for”, adding that “we simply cannot afford to be very choosy”.
Prof Beebee says “NOBODY” should reject a PhD candidate simply on the grounds that they are too busy to closely supervise their work. “If anyone is carrying too high a burden because of increased (postgraduate) recruitment, we will look at ways of reallocating work once the academic year starts,” she says.
Birmingham insisted that it had set recruitment targets – alongside financial rewards and penalties for individual department – since 2008.
In a statement, it said: “The University of Birmingham requires very high entry standards from students wishing to undertake postgraduate study. The quality of our postgraduate students is reflected in our standing as a leading global university.
“We make no secret of our ambition to recruit significant numbers of highly-qualified postgraduate students, who meet our entry criteria and whose chosen topics are within a field of expertise of their supervisor.
“We do not permit colleagues to accept students who do not meet our rigorous entry requirements. However we do expect students who meet those requirements to be accepted where possible and provide support to our staff in adjusting their workloads accordingly.
“The university manages its financial and academic resources responsibly. To assist in this it sets targets for a range of activities, including student recruitment. Planning of this kind is usual practice for a research-intensive university with a high level of postgraduate recruitment.”
*The Government has been accused of “infantilising” higher education by ordering universities to give students more face-to-face tuition.
In exchange for tuition fees of up to £9,000, the Coalition has told institutions to improve the student experience by upping the number of lectures and tutorials given to undergraduates.
But writing in the Times Higher, Paul Ramsden, an education consultant and visiting professor at London’s Institute of Education, said the Government wanted students to be “spoon-fed”.
It should “make more effort to reverse the process of infantilising universities and the patronising culture of that defines undergraduates as immature beings who cannot look after themselves,” he said.
Working in an office is bad for your brain
This seems reasonable but the evidence offered is very slim
Working in an office is bad for your brain and can make you less productive, according to researchers. A study has found that the hustle and bustle of modern offices can lead to a 32% drop in workers well being and reduce their productivity by 15%.
They have found that open plan offices create unwanted activity in the brains of workers that can get in the way of them doing the task at hand.
Open plan offices were first introduced in the 1950s and quickly became a popular as a way of laying out offices.
The findings are revealed in a programme made for Channel 4, The Secret Life of Buildings, to be broadcast on Monday.
In the television programme, however, a test carried out with presenter and architecture critic Tom Dyckhoff using a cap that measured his brain waves while trying to work in an open plan office revealed intense bursts of distraction.
Dr Jack Lewis, a neuroscientist who conducted the test, said: “Open plan offices were designed with the idea that people can move around and interact freely to promote creative thinking and better problem sovling. “But it doesn’t work like that. If you are just getting into some work and a phone goes off in the back ground it ruins what you are concentrating on. Even though you are not aware at the time, the brain responds to distractions.”
Modern offices which refuse to allow personal decorations on walls or desks may also not be helping employees. Dr Craig Knight, a psychologist at Exeter University said that allowing employees to personalise their working area could improve their performance in the office. He said: “Companies like the idea of giving their employees a lean space to work in as it is uniform and without unnecessary distractions.
“In the experiments we have run, however, employees respond better in spaces that have been enriched with pictures and plants. If they have been allowed to enrich the space themselves with their own things it can increase their wellbeing by 32% and their productivity by 15%. “It is because they are able to engage with their surroundings, feel more comfortable and so concentrate.”
Professor Fred Gage, from the laboratory of genetics at the Salk Institute in San Diego, California, has also conducted studies by comparing the brains of mice kept in bare, clean cages with those kept in more stimulating environments.
He said “In the period of a month we saw the brains of the mice kept in stimulatni environments increase in volume by 15%. The area is highly enriched with blood vessels and we see new neurons being born. “If we can extrapolate that to humans then it shows that having a stimulating environment can optimise our performance and abilities.”
The Secret of Global Warming – Posh Anti-Capitalism
The next time you’re forced to attend a dinner party, keep an eye out for the global warmer. Then ask him what he thinks about supermarkets (wicked), ‘consumer society’ (soulless), world trade (cruel) and government regulation (more needed). Global warmers are, in short, anti-capitalist. But – and here’s the really important thing to understand – it’s a very specific form of anti-capitalism. We might call it posh anti-capitalism.
In the old days, when there was less swearing on TV and kids were scared of policemen, anti-capitalism was coloured Red. The Reds complained that capitalism would cause the ‘immiseration’ of the workers, and they dreamed of giant socialist factories, out-producing the West.
The tragedy (for the Reds) was that capitalism didn’t play ball. Instead of getting poorer, ordinary folk got richer – much, much richer. For the simple reason that capitalist mass production must necessarily go hand in hand with mass consumption. What the new-leftists call ‘consumer society’.
But these days, anti-capitalists are coloured Green. They campaign not in the name of the working class, but of ‘Earth’. Instead of giant factories, they dream of little handicraft workshops and organic peasant farms. They complain not that capitalism will impoverish the workers, but, on the contrary, that capitalism has made them too rich. It is the very success of capitalism that seems to upset them.
Green guru James Lovelock says the overconsuming public is like a ‘revolting teenager’ and says we are ‘far too greedy and selfish for our own good.’ Green Party politician Caroline Lucas says we must ‘move away from endless consumerism and materialism.’ Green foodie Colin Tudge, condemns ‘the mindless accumulation of wealth for ill-defined purposes.’ John Naish, in his book Enough, says we should be satisfied with what we have, ‘In the Western world we now have everything we could possibly need. There is no ‘more’.’ To Oliver James, prosperity is a disease – he calls it the ‘Affluenza Virus’. It’s all too much for celebrity journalist Rosie Boycott, ‘Stuff – in all its forms – fills the empty spaces inside, which materialism creates.’
It is more than ironic that the anti-consumption rant comes from people who are, by global standards, rolling in the stuff and from a superior social class. Take a look at Al Gore and Prince Charles, at Jonathon Porritt, the old Etonian friend of Prince Charles, son of Lord Porritt; or the old Etonian Baron Lord Peter Melchett, former head of Greenpeace, or Ecologist editor Zac Goldsmith, another old Etonian, son of the billionaire James Goldsmith, and nephew of yet another old Etonian the Green guru Edward Goldsmith; or ‘eco-warrior’ Mark Brown, who was acquitted of leading the ‘Carnival Against Capitalism’, who is a member of the fabulously wealthy Vestey family; or the founder of the Soil Association Lady Eve Balfour, daughter of the Earl of Balfour; or the author of the Global Warming Survival Handbook, David de Rothschild, and so on, and on. Charles Secrett, former executive director of Friends of the Earth helpfully explains, ‘Among the aristocrats there is a sense of noblesse oblige … a feeling of stewardship towards the land.’
Brendan O’Neill says in The Guardian, ‘It is remarkable how many leading environmentalists come from wealthy or aristocratic backgrounds.’ And adds, ‘There is something irritating – actually, let’s not beat around the bush – there is something monumentally infuriating about rich people telling the masses that they should live more meekly.’
It seems that it is not any old consumption that upsets the Greens. It is mass consumption. The Green foodies don’t mind expensive organic free-range food, or hand-made cashmere sweaters, or costly Italian floor tiles. They don’t rail against posh cheese shops or vintners. The problem is not fine-art auction houses or Persian-rug sellers. The problem is mass production and consumption. Greens John Cavanagh and Jerry Mander deplore the vulgar bargain hunter for whom, ‘everyday low prices are the ultimate human conquest.’ The Green group Earth First went so far as to organise a ‘puke in’ in a shopping mall.
It is not exclusive, expensive delicatessens, but rather the wicked low-cost supermarkets frequented by everyday folk which they find repellent. It is a commonly heard complaint from Greens that things ‘aren’t expensive enough’. The ‘rebels’ down from Eton for the anti-globalisation rallies threw bricks through windows – but not the windows of high-class restaurants. Instead they smashed up and ransacked a working class MacDonalds when they marched down Piccadilly. It is not the luxurious Heals furniture shop that makes them angry, but the proletarian IKEA, with its affordable sofas and lamps.
The mass production and distribution of food is deplorable to them. In fact the mass production of goods, whatever they may be, renders those goods nasty and soulless. The mass production of houses, the mass consumption of culture … everything to do with the masses, it seems, every form of economic activity that benefits the many-headed, is held to be vulgar and an offence against the natural order.
Edward Goldsmith decried ‘the mass production of shoddy utilitarian goods in ever greater quantities.’ The debased creatures who buy this stuff constituted a different kind of human – Homo Sapiens Industrialis.
In his book Green Capitalism, James Heartfield says, ‘greens protest against a certain kind of consumption – mass consumption. By their green consumer choices, environmentalists are demonstrating that they are better than the herd … Green consumerism does not mean consuming less than the rest. In fact it ends up meaning that you consume more. Your consumer choices are more finickity, less easily satisfied. They say something about you.’
And the same goes for the Green outrage at mass tourism, ‘The ‘conscientious consumers’ love air travel – for themselves. They just hate cheap air travel that everyone else can enjoy. The reason they first got into tourism was to get away from us. Now that we are all following them, ruining their isolated spots in Ibiza and the Dordogne, they need a reason to stop us. Not to put too fine a point on it, concern over CO2 emissions came after the prejudice that mass tourism was a blight. Global warming predictions provide a useful, quasi-scientific justification for anti-working class prejudice.’
He is right. None of this is new. In 1958 the patrician JK Galbraith looked down his nose at this increasing prosperity in his The Affluent Society. Ten years later, with even greater disgust, Paul Ehrlich, condemned ‘the effluent society’.
In 1973 E.F Schumacher in his classic Green text Small is Beautiful, said the modern consumer ‘is propelled by a frenzy of greed and indulges in an orgy of envy’. He complained, ‘The cultivation and expansion of needs is the antithesis of wisdom.’ His conclusion was devastating. We must abandon any hope of attaining ‘universal prosperity’, because, he said, ‘universal prosperity … if attainable at all, is attainable only by cultivating such drives of human nature as greed and envy.’
But to say that mass consumption was ‘the antithesis of wisdom’ was clearly not enough. The Greens needed some solid reason why economic progress should be rolled back. Conveniently, three years after Small is Beautiful, Lowell Ponte published his big scary book, The Cooling, which predicted that pollution from our consumer society would blot out the sun and push the earth into an ice age. Mass consumption wasn’t just morally depraved, it was now dangerous too. Ponte warned, ‘prosperity could mean disaster.’ In fact ‘the cooling has already killed hundreds of thousands of people.’ This was a disaster with a moral message. The masses must tighten their belts, ‘Note this word need. It is readily confused with the word want in industrial societies, where the dominant value is consumption rather than conservation.’
The Green anti-consumption rant, though fashionable among the elite, does not go down big with the great unwashed. People who are experiencing wealth for the first time rarely think badly of it. The Greens always moan that the bulk of the population is unmoved by their silly warnings of impending catastrophe. Whether it’s global cooling or global warming or genetically modified ‘Frankenstein’ food, all the end-of-the-world stuff fails to grip the imagination of the masses. No surprise. They know that it’s all directed against them.
The Greens tell us that food should come from peasants rather than industrial farms. Chairs and tables should be produced, not in factories, but lovingly by skilled artisans. But as we all know, such antiquated, handicraft methods inevitably produce far fewer, more expensive goods. Handicraft production was what happened in that Green golden age before capitalist production, when the vast majority of people were grindingly poor – unable to afford such lovingly crafted, hand-made luxuries. These were the good old days, when everyone knew their place in the ‘natural order’.
Green anti-capitalism is Snob anti-capitalism. This is not mere name-calling. It goes to the very heart of what ‘Green’ is about.