Want to know the NHS’s real problem? Ask a nurse for a bowl of cornflakes
It is an all too familiar feeling. Going to see someone in hospital, trying to gee them up and then leaving in quiet desperation, fretting about the lack of basic nursing care.
Post-operative, sore and weak patients are expected to do things that they simply cannot do: lift a jug of water, haul themselves and their various drips to the bathroom, sit up and eat food that has been plonked in front of them.
What happens outside visiting hours or to those who do not have visitors is indeed a worry.
I know that arguments about the NHS are always boiled down to issues of economics, with massive top-down restructuring being cited as the explanation for all ills. But this simply isn’t true.
There was a crisis in caring long before this Government. ‘Cuts’ don’t explain a begrudging manner. ‘Cuts’ don’t explain the complete lack of communication between shifts. ‘Cuts’ don’t explain why nurses sit at their stations chatting and glare at you if you ask for anything.
Nurses complain that they have neither the time nor the staff to deliver quality care and that in these conditions their bedside manner is often compromised. This is an understatement. In some wards they are very rarely at the bedside.
I certainly don’t want to attack all nurses, as I have seen wonderful care at first-hand, but I do want to know why some nurses now armed with ‘care plans’ feel it demeaning to do the basic tasks of nursing.
The combination of skill and care that the best nurses exhibit is remarkable: my daughter, with a fractured skull and blood caked everywhere, had her hair gently washed by two nurses.
I have seen lip-balm slicked on to the mouths of the terminally ill. I have seen student nurses sit long past the end of their shift, chatting to lonely people.
The hospital I was in this week saved my youngest’s life when she had meningitis, so I am well aware of the everyday miracles performed there. Yet on the wards, especially if you are getting on a bit, it’s a different story.
The person I went to see, someone who has spent her life caring for others, needs to be encouraged to eat and move around to recover from major surgery.
Feeling nauseous, she asked for cornflakes but was offered only porridge, which she didn’t want. A small thing perhaps, as is the fact she wants to get up and have a bath and needs help to do so – yet all this would aid her recovery.
This phenomenon of some nurses being ‘too posh to wash’ is not new. Recent scandals over the care of the elderly who are often left hungry and thirsty cannot be a shock to anyone who has been near a hospital.
Boxes are ticked, a tray of food is put in front of patients and removed whether they can manage or not. If a member of the family is not there to act as an advocate, basic needs are neglected. Something has gone awry with the training and recruitment of nurses.
The default defence is ‘staff shortages’. The nursing union has warned of ‘catastrophic consequences’ for patient care as the NHS tries to save £20 billion by 2014, and talks of how Cameron’s promise to protect frontline services has been broken.
But somewhere between high politics and an elderly woman who needs to be coaxed to eat, we need to talk about the valuing of care itself.
To reduce nursing to the systematically inept feeding, watering and doling out of medication is insulting but this is, I am afraid, what some nursing professionals have done.
That this culture of callousness appears institutionalised is what is so deeply demoralising. Such failure is viral. Surely both nurses and patients should be doing all they can to build resistance to it.
Foreigners arrested in Britain riots to be deported
We’ll believe it when we see it
More than 150 foreign nationals arrested after the riots in Britain will be deported, a media report said Saturday.
Immigration Minister Damian Green said they will be thrown out of Britain at the ‘earliest opportunity’.
Around 150 of the 2,800 people held over the looting and arson attacks were born abroad, the Daily Mail said quoting the UK Border Agency.
Immigration Minister Damian Green said Friday: “We strongly believe that foreign national lawbreakers should be removed from the UK at the earliest opportunity.”
“We also have the power to cancel the visas of foreign nationals found guilty of criminal activity, and this is something we will be looking to do when cases arise,” the Mail quoted him as saying.
Under immigration rules, criminals from outside Europe are automatically put forward for deportation if they are sentenced to 12 months in prison.
The same applies to Europeans given a 12-month sentence for drugs, violent or sexual crimes, or 24 months for other crimes, the Mail said.
British black man discriminated against by liberal elitists because he speaks too correctly
Their racist stereotypes show. Black men must stay in their place
For as long as I can remember people have been mistaking me for a white man. Not in the flesh of course, but after speaking on the telephone. I have lost count of the times I have arranged business lunches with strangers, only to see them look straight through me as they scan the restaurant for a middle-class white gentleman who answers to the name of Ben.
When, eventually, they realise that I am he, the reaction is invariably one of barely concealed surprise. Conventional wisdom has it that my face and voice do not match. But look at it from my point of view. Why do people assume I am white? The answer is so depressingly obvious it exposes a fundamental prejudice at the heart of our society.
There is no way I could be a black man, the assumption goes, because I am well-spoken. Because my accent – instilled in me by my parents – is old-fashioned RP: Received Pronunciation. Quite simply, I speak with a degree of erudition beyond the ken of a black man.
We live in an age when class barriers have supposedly been torn down, yet the manner in which we speak is as important as ever. Every day people make assumptions based on our language and accent, and we ignore this fact at our peril.
As Britons we are blessed with a language of extraordinary depth and nuance – there is a reason so many other tongues steal from our own. It is almost criminal to witness the dismantling of our rich tapestry of expression by the next generation. Nevertheless, whites, Asians, blacks and children of all racial backgrounds are stampeding towards the low ground, stripping language down to a degree of banal, almost feral simplicity. It is homogenous nonsense, characterised by limited vocabulary and an absence of imagination.
In a sense, they can hardly be blamed. This nihilistic language is the fashion, and for teenagers that is an irresistibly powerful motivation. So it is that we find an entire generation speaking in the same peculiar slang. The Asian youth, the northern council estate boy, the South London gang member and the fashion- conscious public schoolboy all delving into the same preposterous manner of expression.
Poor language skills, epitomised by street talk, are holding back an entire generation. Interviews for jobs or further education places are never going to go well if the young person is incapable of expressing himself. Language is not a privilege of the few. It can be easily learned – just look at the Eastern European workers who quickly pick up the necessary skills.
The gift of self-expression can break down untold barriers and open up a world of achievement – Barack Obama gained the highest office on the planet due in a large part to the power of his oratory. We neglect language at our peril. More needs to be taught in our schools, as a matter of urgency, to instil a sense of justifiable pride.
People say I am an anomaly, that by rights I should be talking with the Jamaican patois so popular with young people today. Utter tosh, I would argue, given that my forebears hail from Barbados – more than 1,000 miles away from Jamaica – and my adoptive parents are from Teddington in Middlesex.
But never mind the prejudice against youngsters, with their ‘street’ language. In my experience the bias works equally powerfully in the opposite direction, in modern ‘liberal’ Britain. I have lost count of the number of white middle-class television producers who have rejected my voice because it is too posh. On one occasion I was told bluntly: ‘I’m sorry, you fit the bill perfectly but you’re not black enough.’
At auditions for acting roles I have been rejected because my pronunciation is too clear. Sir Alec Guinness must be spinning in his grave. Even on news programmes I have been deemed unsuitable to comment on black issues because my accent is ‘inappropriate’.
What a strange world we live in where being well-spoken and articulate is a burden.
Britain has launched a revolution in its university system — says Matthew d’Ancona
The ritual argument about the difficulty of A-levels strikes me as both rude and pointless. It’s hard to imagine anything more offensive or crass to those celebrating their results than telling them noisily that the currency has been debauched and devalued.
The fact is: they don’t have to be told any of this. Their conduct – the brightest teenagers taking six or seven A-levels to mark themselves out as the best – shows that they know the score, perfectly well aware that pass rates don’t improve for 29 years in a row if standards are stable. Today’s smartest sixth formers pursue A* grades with the same zeal that their forebears sought the old-fashioned A. They do whatever is necessary to distinguish themselves, with much greater ingenuity and industry than was necessary in the past.
It cannot be said too often: the row about grade inflation is a row about the failures of past policy-makers, not a critique of today’s teenagers. Michael Gove, the Education Secretary, is committed to an overhaul of A-levels, following a review of the examination commissioned by the Tories in Opposition and led by Sir Richard Sykes, a former rector of Imperial College London. The themes of the forthcoming reform are encouraging – fewer “modules”, more traditional written tests, the probable withering on the vine of the AS level, new exam boards – but the timetable is not yet settled. I would be pleasantly surprised if the poor, ailing A-level is healed in the lifetime of this Parliament.
Which is not to say that the pace of change in education has stalled. Quite the opposite, in fact: as we trot biliously through the traditional arguments of A-level and GCSE fortnight (“This boy has 36 As at A-level, and yet can’t even get a place at Simon Cowell University”, etc, etc), we risk missing the bigger, fizzing picture. As the aftershock of the August riots continues to pulse through the nation, it is easy to forget the violent mayhem in Westminster last November in protest at the prospective rise in university tuition fees. Inexcusable as those earlier riots were, they at least had a measure of political content: the changes against which the protesters bellowed are indeed revolutionary. In this context, the chaos in university clearing last week symbolised the death throes of the old, or, if you are of an optimistic cast of mind, the birth pangs of the new.
Many of those scrambling for a place last week were desperate to slip under the wire to avoid the new system, which will be implemented in the academic year 2012-13 and lift the annual ceiling for undergraduate fees from £3,500 to £9,000 pa. At present, 60 per cent of university funding is public, and 40 per cent private; those percentages will now be reversed. This represents a transformation, not only in higher education finance but in what, since Cardinal Newman, we have called “the Idea of a University”. It completes a shift that has its distant origins in the introduction of student loans in 1990 and, more decisively, in Tony Blair’s Teaching and Higher Education Act of 1998, which introduced fees of £1,000 pa and began the phasing out of maintenance grants.
It has taken more than 20 years, but the deeply entrenched assumption that a university education was an immutable entitlement which taxpayers (graduates or not) were required to subsidise in full has been replaced by the recognition that it is a privilege, positional good and lifetime advantage that ought to be paid for (in large part) by the beneficiary himself. The corollary is that universities will have to raise their game as teaching institutions if they wish to attract funding, and – an important change – publish details of the A-level subjects taken by successful applicants. As long as the fees they can charge are capped, Britain will not have the unfettered higher-education marketplace that it needs to compete globally. But the trajectory is clear.
One of the most significant proposals in the Higher Education White Paper published in June was that universities should be able to admit as many students as they wish with two As and a B at A-level (or better). In effect, this quietly grants the Russell Group – the top 20 universities – something close to market flexibility. “That’s a radical change,” according to one senior source. “It amounts to the quiet introduction of a higher education voucher.”
Co-payment by the consumer; the rudiments of a university marketplace; a discreetly introduced voucher system – so far, so Conservative. But this is not a Conservative Government; it is a Coalition held together by Sellotape and exhaustion. Although many Tories wish that the expansion of higher education could be halted, the Prime Minister and David Willetts, the Universities Minister, are not among them. Both men share the Lib Dems’ belief that campuses can be engines of social mobility and aspiration. For this reason, the new system will be progressive in every sense that matters. No graduate will pay a penny back until he earns £21,000 or more. Less affluent students will benefit from the new National Scholarship Programme, a fund championed by Nick Clegg that will give successful applicants at least £3,000 to offset the annual costs.
But there is still tension between the Coalition partners over the precise extent to which government should twist arms, pull levers and risk confrontation to force universities to admit applicants from disadvantaged backgrounds. All 123 higher education institutions in England are planning to charge more than £6,000 – a decision that automatically makes them subject to much more stringent “access agreements”. Tory ministers are foursquare behind any measures that make universities look at the potential of candidates as well as their achievements. There is no quarrel over the need to get more state pupils into higher education.
The argument concerns means, not ends. Clegg is up for a fight with the vice-chancellors, and has said as much in private. Denied electoral reform at Westminster as his legacy, he demands measurable results on social mobility, especially in the composition of university admissions. The Lib Dems want everything short of formal quotas, which are illegal under the 2005 Higher Education Act. They believe that no progress will be made unless the Coalition bares its teeth. Their Conservative partners fret that the Coalition needs its remaining teeth intact for all the other battles that lie ahead.
Unexpectedly, universities have become the laboratory of this Government’s social ambitions. But these individual ambitions are not necessarily consistent. Is the higher education system to become an ever more independent marketplace of free institutions? Or a great Heath Robinson machine for social engineering? It cannot be both. This is the unanswered question that lurks beneath this year’s university clearing bedlam. Clearing for what, exactly?
British authorities are much more punitive about talk than they are about actual rioters
Most of the real rioters walked free from court with only token sentences. So how come a couple of people whose only offence was talk got such big sentences?
Jordan Blackshaw, 20, and Perry Sutcliffe-Keenan, 22, were each jailed for four years at Chester Crown Court on Tuesday after setting up Facebook pages encouraging riots in their neighbourhood.
Blackshaw set up an event called “Smashdown” in Northwich but no one apart from the police, who were monitoring the page, turned up at the rendezvous outside McDonald’s.
Sutcliffe-Keenan set up a page called Warrington Riots. When he woke up the following morning with a hangover, he removed the page and apologised, saying it had been a joke. No rioting broke out as a result of his message.
The pair are clearly just a couple of witless Norman No Mates. But do their misdemeanours really merit such disproportionate sentences?