Insane Britain: Nurses who can’t speak English put patients in danger
Lord Winston’s stark warning over NHS workers from Romania and Bulgaria
Nurses from Eastern Europe put NHS patients in danger because they can’t speak proper English, one of Britain’s top doctors has warned. Lord Winston said yesterday that he was particularly worried about those from Romania and Bulgaria who had limited communication skills ‘even in their own language’.
He told the House of Lords they had been trained in a ‘completely different way’ to British nurses, and were not used to speaking to doctors or their own patients.
Lord Winston, professor of fertility studies at Imperial College London, warned that these poor communication skills were becoming widespread across the NHS and could only worsen if action wasn’t taken.
Under strict EU laws, the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) watchdog is banned from testing nurses coming in from European countries on either their language or clinical skills. Such tests are deemed to restrict the ‘free movement of labour’ – the same rules apply to doctors.
Some countries, however, including France, get round the rules by ensuring candidates are tested by local health boards rather than a national watchdog. As the tests are not at a national level, they are not deemed to break the rules.
Lord Winston’s views were later supported by Lord Kakkar, who is a surgeon. He told peers the situation was ‘intolerable’. ‘It is not right for fellow practitioners to have to work with these individuals,’ he said.
‘But most of all it is not right for citizens of our country, who at times when they are unwell and becoming patients in our healthcare systems need to be absolutely certain that the practitioners to whom they are exposed are competent, meet the standards required of medical practitioners in our country and therefore can with certainty provide the quality of care that citizens in our country deserve.’
Hearing evidence at the Lords’ inquiry into free EU movement of medical workers, the peers were told that patients were being put at risk by incompetent doctors and nurses who cannot speak English or understand basic medical terms such as ‘nil by mouth’.
Lord Winston said his own experience working abroad had shown him that nurses from Eastern Europe were not used to communicating with doctors or patients. ‘That communication between the patient and the professional is of vital importance,’ he said. ‘We run the risk of losing it with this issue of nurses who can’t speak the English language.’
The number of European nurses registering to work in Britain has doubled since strict checks on their competence – including language skills – were scrapped last October. In the first five months alone, almost 1,500 new nurses arrived.
The General Medical Council said that 22,060 – around 10 per cent – of doctors licensed to work in the UK were from the European Economic Area, including 1,862 doctors who qualified in Romania and 722 with Bulgarian qualifications.
In one case, a GMC spokesman said, a foreign doctor’s husband contacted the council to register her because she could not speak English herself.
Crime by EU migrants trebles – and we still can’t throw them out
Britain is suffering an explosion in crimes by EU nationals, who are amassing more than 2,700 convictions every month. Since 2007, the number of EU citizens punished for breaking the law in the UK has more than trebled. The total is expected to hit a record 33,000 this year, placing huge pressure on the police, courts and overcrowded jails.
But because of EU diktats and Labour’s Human Rights Act, officials are finding it extremely hard to remove European lawbreakers once they have completed their sentences. According to the latest Home Office figures, 27,563 EU nationals were convicted in 2010, up from 10,736 in 2007. Yet only 1,480 EU citizens were removed from the country last year.
Top of the list of offenders were Poland, whose citizens collected 6,777 convictions, reflecting the large numbers who have headed here since the controversial expansion of the EU. Next came Romania with 4,343. Bulgarians were responsible for 296 crimes in 2010. Romania and Bulgaria joined the EU in 2007, three years after Poland and other Eastern European states.
Tory MP Dominic Raab said: ‘This staggering increase in the number of crimes committed by EU nationals in Britain since Bulgaria and Romania joined the EU highlights a hidden cost of further EU enlargement that must be properly debated.
‘Far from helping us tackle crime, the current straitjacket EU arrangements for securing our borders, deportation and law enforcement are imposing a massive net burden on policing and prison cells.’
EU rules make it far harder to remove European citizens than those from the rest of the world. Normally, criminals may be considered for deportation if they have been sentenced to at least a year in jail. But for EU nationals the bar is set twice as high with a starting point of two years in jail.
The Home Office must also show the offender poses a ‘present, genuine and sufficiently serious threat’ to society.
The situation becomes even more complicated thanks to Labour’s Human Rights Act, which prevents the removal of anybody who can claim to have established a family life in the UK.
In reality, all except the most serious EU offenders, such as killers and rapists, are unlikely to face even an attempt at deportation. At the same time, the EU free movement directive prevents Britain from refusing entry to all but the worst overseas criminals.
Sir Andrew Green of Migrationwatch said: ‘This is another of the unspoken costs of the massive levels of immigration we face. ‘The fact that it is so difficult to remove EU nationals only rubs salt into the wound.’
Andrew Percy, Tory MP for Brigg and Goole, said: ‘These people should be treated the same as every other foreign national and kicked out. ‘It’s not acceptable at all to have EU nationals committing crimes then being able to continue living here.’
Overall, the number of EU convictions since 2007 is 109,568. This includes 19,164 in the first seven months of 2011 – a figure pointing to a record end-of-year total of almost 33,000.
Prophecies of an egalitarian utopia based on false assumptions
As the British parliament rose for its summer recess this year, Opposition Leader Ed Miliband handed the members of his shadow cabinet some holiday homework. He told them to read a book that has been capturing the attention of the Left, not only in Britain but across the Western world.
Written by a couple of socialist academics, Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett, the book is called The Spirit Level. The clue to why so many on the Left have been drawn to it is in the subtitle: Why Equality is Better for Everyone.
This book seeks to reinstate radical income redistribution at the heart of the Left’s political agenda. Socialists always have believed in greater equality, of course, but until now their case has rested on an ethical principle that it is morally wrong for some people to have a lot more money than others.
As with all ethical principles, this can be challenged. Why should people who work hard have the fruits of their labour taken away to be given to lazier folk, for example? The Right points out that hard work and risk deserve reward, and equalising shares can be quite immoral.
The Spirit Level aims to break away from these ethical conundrums and to replace them with the authority of science. It says governments should redistribute incomes, not because it is moral but because equality produces happier people and better-functioning societies. It claims everybody stands to benefit from income redistribution, rich and poor alike.
If this claim were true, it would pull the rug from under the feet of the Right. If a radical redistribution of income and wealth really did benefit everybody, how could the Right continue to hold out against it? The case for high taxes, big government and massive income transfers would be unanswerable. But it’s not true. This book has many flaws (even though Miliband, and others on the Left appear blind to them).
The book’s evidence consists of a series of graphs apparently showing that people in more equal countries live longer, are less likely to get murdered, enjoy higher literacy rates, suffer less mental illness and trust each other more. These findings are repeated for the 50 US states, where the authors find that states with the widest income spread have worse outcomes. But little of this evidence stands up to critical scrutiny.
Their sample of countries is biased. It excludes nations such as South Korea, where strong social outcomes coexist with high income inequality, as well as those such as the Czech Republic, with poor social outcomes despite a compressed income distribution.
Their choice of measures is also biased. Community strength is measured by whether people say they trust their neighbours, but membership of voluntary organisations is ignored. Drug dependency is included as an indicator of social pathology but not alcohol abuse. Murders likewise are in, but suicides are out. Prison numbers are analysed, but not crime figures. Government aid to foreign countries is included as a measure of generosity and compassion, but not private donations to charities. High teenage births are analysed as an indicator of family dysfunction, but not high divorce rates.
What is striking about this list of inclusions and exclusions is that, in every case, the measures that Wilkinson and Pickett selected fit their argument while the alternative measures would have undermined it. In short, they cherry-picked.
Their data analysis, too, is suspect, for they allow extreme cases to create the appearance of an association where there is none. For example, they claim that inequality produces a higher homicide rate, but this depends entirely on the US, where the murder rate is three times higher than anywhere else. Look beyond the US and you often find the most equal countries, such as Sweden and Finland, have a worse murder rate than less equal ones, including Britain and Australia. Yet appealing to their misleading graph, the authors claim Britain’s murder rate would be three times lower if it had Scandinavian levels of income inequality.
The Scandinavians, it is true, do fare better than the “Anglo” countries on many of their measures, but this is not because inequality is lower in Scandinavia. It rather reflects the homogeneity of the Nordic countries as against the diversity of the Anglo nations, for the greater the social mix, the weaker the social bonds tend to be. We see this clearly in the variations between US states. Wilkinson and Pickett find the more equal states (usually those in the northeast) do better than the less equal ones (concentrated in the south).
But had they taken account of the ethnic mix of these states, they would have found ethnicity is a much stronger predictor of social outcomes than income distribution. Ethnicity is 18 times more powerful in predicting a state’s infant mortality rate, for example.
The issue of equality is important, and it generates strong and impassioned arguments on both sides. But The Spirit Level is little more than polemic. It is to be hoped that we do not allow its spurious claims to scientific status to muddy the waters of our political and moral debate.
Our war on the politics of fear
The complexity and constant change of the modern world has generated fear of the unknown in many
Contrary to what we have been told a thousand times over the past decade, and particularly this week, 9/11 was not ‘the day that changed the world’. No act of terrorism alone, even one as bloody as the attacks on New York and Washington on 11 September 2001, could ever do that. What 9/11 and, more importantly, the fear-driven responses to it did was to confirm that the world had already changed, and to act as a further catalyst accelerating the end of the old political order.
As I wrote on spiked a day after the collapse of the twin towers: ‘It is not the act of terrorism itself that has changed the course of history, but the reaction to it may well do so.’ Our expectations have been borne out over the subsequent decade. The dreadful events of 9/11 came just six months after we had launched spiked, with me as its first editor. spiked was the online successor to LM magazine (née Living Marxism). In LM and elsewhere, writers subsequently associated with spiked had already gone a long way towards establishing a framework for understanding the post-Cold War world, navigating a shifting political map without the safety of the old signposts. Among the key features of this developing analysis were the end of the traditional ideologies of left and right; the crisis of authority in Western societies from the top downwards; and perhaps most pertinently, the creeping advance of the new politics of fear.
These trends created a context in which to situate the attacks on 9/11. It did not mean that we were any less shocked than anybody else. But it did allow spiked to make more sense of these events and the fallout from them. From the first, we emphasised the importance of the powerful culture of fear in Western societies shaping reactions to 9/11. As one US columnist wrote on the day of the terror attacks, ‘the next big thing… is likely to be fear’. On spiked, however, we had already identified the culture of fear as a dominant characteristic of the age, evident in seemingly trivial panics over public health and wellbeing about everything from food to flying. The result, as we put it afterwards, was that ‘we were scaring ourselves to death long before 9/11’.
The terror attacks on America did not create the culture of fear. But the reactions to 9/11 did demonstrate how powerful the politics of fear had become. That first spiked editorial on 12 September 2001 noted how the actions of a few zealous terrorists had effectively caused ‘the collapse of the American government’, with President George W Bush sent off around the country in search of a bolthole, Congress closed down, and all in chaos: ‘In the heart of the only superpower on Earth, the traumatised authorities suddenly seemed bewildered and powerless.’ These events, I also argued, gave ‘an insight into the fearful state of the contemporary Western mind’, as the authorities everywhere moved to pull up drawbridges and lash out at their invisible enemies. As another spiked editorial two days later had it, after 48 hours of bellicose panic-mongering in Washington and London, ‘It’s war – but against whom?’.
spiked’s immediate response to 9/11 and the forces it helped to unleash was to step up our own war of words against the culture of fear, arguing on 12 September that ‘by adopting a precautionary approach to modern life, and reorganising society on the basis of worst-case scenarios, we risk squandering opportunities to create a more progressive, civilised world’. This, I recall, caused confusion among some readers who had expected a more routine left-wing response. spiked, after all, came from a political and intellectual tradition of anti-imperialism, where the response to an attack by the IRA or the PLO in the 1980s would have emphasised the context of oppression that gave rise to such movements.
But we saw straight away that 9/11 was different. There was no shred of anti-imperialism in the attacks on New York and Washington, launched by Westernised and affluent young Saudis who appeared to have been shaped more by the malaise in Western society than any oppression in the Third World. Instead these acts of nihilistic terror-for-terror’s-sake – of adolescent ‘apocalyptic barbarism’, as one spiked writer described them – were in part a product of the global demise of the progressive left and of the national liberation movements it had supported, leaving behind a vacuum to be filled by terrorists whose explosive tantrum was so incoherent they could not even claim responsibility for their attacks or articulate a cause.
The same decay of radical politics was evident in the response of those left-liberals in the West who tried to speak for the suicide attackers, some even claiming that people working in the New York finance industry should not be considered innocent victims.
If 9/11 was both a product of, and an attempt to prey on, a weakness at the heart of the West, the response of the authorities suggested that the attackers were banging on an open door. At another time such a terrorist attack, however deadly, might have been seen in a wider sense as ‘throwing snowballs at our castle walls’. This time, however, the politics of fear dictated that it was treated as if posing a mortal threat not only to the people in those planes and the twin towers, but to Western civilisation itself.
The politics of fear is often understood too narrowly and conspiratorially, as a conscious attempt by those in power to control the population by spreading fear and justifying authoritarian measures. An element of that has often been evident over the decade since 9/11. But arguably more important has been the impact of the politics of fear on the insecure authorities themselves, who increasingly live in fear and loathing of a world that appears beyond their authority and control. That was evident in the panicky reactions on 9/11, and in the years of turmoil that followed.
We saw the influence of the politics of fear in both the launch and the conduct of the West’s desperate wars of intervention that came after 9/11, in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya. It was witnessed, too, in the reorganisation of domestic politics around ‘homeland security’, not only in the US but in Europe. Here in the UK we might recall Tony Blair’s New Labour government making plans to flee London in the event of a fantasy terrorist dirty-bomb attack on the capital, while after the 7/7 attacks on London transport Gordon Brown declared that every department of government must effectively become a security department (see Gordon Brown’s tyranny of security, by Brendan O’Neill).
Meanwhile, spiked fought running battles against both sides of a ‘culture war’ that came to dominate and distort much public debate: on one hand, the fearmongers spreading panic about ‘Islamofascism’, as if the handful of Islamists really were the equivalent of Nazism on the march; and on the other, the rival fearmongers worrying about ‘Islamophobia’, imagining an army of white racists about to set fire to Britain’s inner cities.
And the politics of fear has not only been focused on terror. It predated 9/11, and it has since been behind many of the new forms of authoritarianism and lifestyle control that have flourished in recent years. Yet many critics of the ‘war on terror’ have focused only on the most extreme legal attacks on civil liberties, such as the infamous attempt to extend detention without charge to 90 days for terrorism suspects in the UK. The fact that many celebrated keeping the legal limit to ‘only’ 28 days, and welcomed new attacks on free speech as a defence against ‘Islamophobia’, confirmed how far the politics of fear has helped to drive liberty out of our public life over the past decade.
The identification of the politics of fear as a central theme of Western culture has shaped much of what spiked stood for since 9/11, first under my editorship and then, since 2007, under that of Brendan O’Neill. We take no pleasure in the way that our warning about the dangers of ‘reorganising society on the basis of worst-case scenarios’ 10 years ago has been proved right, most recently in the panicky, precautionary reaction of the New York authorities to the prospect of Hurricane Irene (see The politics of fear blows into New York, by Tim Black). But it has convinced us to redouble our efforts.
Back on 12 September 2001, that first article also tried to sound a more optimistic note, expressing the hope that, ‘in the face of adversity, people will rediscover the resilience and resourcefulness that made us capable of going out and building a modern wonder like Manhattan in the first place’. In the decade since then, many people have indeed shown remarkable resilience in the face of adversity. But the Western authorities and their apologists have ensured that post-9/11 political life remains weighed down under an atmosphere of misanthropy, miserabilism and fear. Ten years is more than enough of that.
British PM: we need elitism in schools
David Cameron will signal a return to “elitism” in schools in an attempt to mend Britain’s “broken” society and secure the economic future.
The Prime Minister will attack the “prizes for all” culture in which competitiveness is frowned upon and winners are shunned.
In a significant speech, he will outline Coalition plans to ensure teaching is based on “excellence”, saying that controversial reforms are needed to “bring back the values of a good education”.
Failure to do so would be “fatal to prosperity”, he will say.
The comments mark the latest in a series of attempts to focus on education in response to the riots that shocked London and other English cities last month.
They follow the announcement by Michael Gove, the Education Secretary, of back-to-basics discipline in state schools. He plans to give teachers more freedom to search pupils suspected of carrying banned items and to let them use reasonable force in removing the most disruptive children from the classroom.
Mr Cameron will seek to move the debate on to standards, saying that a rigorous focus on the basics is needed to give young people “the character to live a good life, to be good citizens”.
The Prime Minister will say: “For the future of our economy, and our society, we need a first-class education for every child. Of course, everyone’s agreed on that. “The trouble is that for years we’ve been bogged down in a great debate about how we get there. Standards or structures? Learning by rote or by play? Elitism or all winning prizes?”
Mr Cameron makes it clear that he is in favour of elitism and not prizes for all. He will add: “These debates are over – because it’s clear what works. Discipline works. Rigour works. Freedom for schools works. Having high expectations works. “Now we’ve got to get on with it – and we don’t have any time to lose.”
Ministers have already outlined plans to insist on at least a 2:2 degree before students join teacher training courses, and to hand generous bursaries to the brightest graduates who want to teach key subjects such as science and maths.
The Government has also introduced the English Baccalaureate, a new school leaving certificate that rewards pupils gaining good grades in academic subjects including maths, English, science, languages, history and geography.
In his speech, Mr Cameron will also champion the opening of the first free schools, state-funded institutions run by parents, charities and faith groups, independent of local council control. Some 24 have opened this month.
The measures have provoked fury among teaching unions who claim they smack of elitism and represent an attempt to dismantle the state education system.
But Mr Cameron will say that free schools will “have the power to change lives”. He will also seek to link improvements in education to mending “our broken society.”
“We’ve got to be ambitious if we want to compete in the world,” he will say. “When China is going through an educational renaissance, when India is churning out science graduates, any complacency now would be fatal.
“And we’ve got to be ambitious, too, if we want to mend our broken society. Because education doesn’t just give people the tools to make a good living – it gives them the character to live a good life, to be good citizens.”
The comments come days after Nick Clegg said that parents must take more responsibility. The Deputy Prime Minister insisted that teachers should be left to educate, and not be expected to act as “surrogate mothers and fathers”.
Britain even worse at maths than Albania as UK schools rank 43rd in the world
Britain is languishing behind Albania in a league table for maths and science education, according to an authoritative international study. A report by the World Economic Forum has ranked UK schools 43rd in the world – behind countries such as Iran, Trinidad and Tobago and Lithuania.
The findings are a damning indictment of Tony Blair’s pledge to prioritise ‘education, education, education’ and come after education spending doubled from £35.8billion to £71billion under Labour.
The WEF findings reveal British pupils are at a disadvantage compared to many others around the world, with the country at risk of developing a core skills shortage.
While the UK languishes in 43rd position in the table, Singapore tops the list, followed by Belgium and Finland.
New Zealand takes seventh place, Canada eighth, France 15th and Bosnia and Herzegovina 41st. Just below the UK sit Jordan and Romania.
And Britons do not only fare poorly when it comes to maths and science, as a recent OECD report showed a fifth of 15-year-olds are ‘functionally illiterate’.
The WEF annual study, carried out between January and July, is based on in-depth surveys of 142 countries and takes into account each nation’s economic and business standing.
Conservative MP Chris Skidmore said: ‘After 13 years in which Labour failed to grasp the importance of maths and science education to our future prosperity, this report shows how much ground we have to make up.’ ‘We should be competing with the likes of Singapore, not Iran and Albania.’
The UK’s ranking in 2008 was 47th, meaning there has been a slight improvement over the last three years. It is thought this is because during the recession, teenagers have heeded calls from employers for more graduates who have core skills in maths and science.