Self-important pen-pushers are neglecting the most vulnerable
By Janet Street Porter
Did the head of the Care Quality Commission, Cynthia Bowers (salary £200,000, pension fund currently £1,350,000) feel as angry as I did reading the coroner’s report on the death of Mary Roberts at Gwynedd Hospital in Bangor last week?
Admitted to A&E with a stomach bug, Mrs Roberts suffered a cardiac arrest the next day and died. Described as ‘a full circle of disaster following disaster’ by the local MP, last week an inquest heard how Mrs Roberts’ last hours in an NHS establishment couldn’t have been any worse. The coroner called the catalogue of errors ‘appalling’.
Twice a nurse asked a doctor for help yet nobody checked on Mrs Roberts as her condition worsened, there was no care plan and her medical notes were missing. This was a preventable death and no apology can recompense grieving relatives.
Thank goodness I do not live near Gwynedd Hospital, but many of my elderly relatives do and the saga of Mary Roberts will distress them greatly. Elfyn Llwyd, leader of Plaid Cymru at Westminster, says this story is ‘reminiscent of the Third World’.
If only it were an isolated case, but it’s not. Many of you emailed and wrote to me with similar stories last June when I said Cynthia Bowers was a disgrace and should resign. The CQC is supposed to monitor standards and ensure scandals such as Mary Roberts don’t happen in modern Britain.
Unfortunately, they are common, in spite of over-paid bureaucrats, self-important quangos and endless inquiries. Last week, a House of Commons inquiry revealed the awful truth behind Cynthia Bower’s regime at CQC. The commission carried out 70 per cent FEWER inspections in the second half of 2010-11 compared to the year before!
Asked to make cuts and take on the extra burden of registering providers of social care, dentists and private ambulance services, the CQC prioritised box-ticking and form filling at the expense of its core activity: ensuring standards are met in hospitals and care homes.
Told to recruit 70 extra inspectors, it took eight months to fill the much-needed posts. MPs said the CQC had been ‘distracted’ and had failed to alert the Government and public to the fact they were swamped with extra work and not doing their job properly.
During those six months when inspections plummeted, how many more deaths were there like Mrs Roberts? Stephen Dorrell, who chaired the inquiry, said on the radio it was unacceptable that patients now accept second best and asked the CQC to focus on central issues.
Exactly — if Cynthia Bower was running a factory making anything from cupcakes to cars, it would have gone out of business ages ago, while she sat in the back office making sure the paper clips were lined up and the stationary order was up to scratch.
Because the recipients of the CQC’s standards are generally the old, those with learning difficulties and extra social needs, the concept of care has become rather elastic. Battery chickens have higher standards of care, it seems.
In its annual report, the CQC says 51 per cent of nursing homes and NHS hospitals do not comply with basic standards of care. Spot checks on geriatric wards showed one in ten failed to treat patients with dignity or feed them properly.
The CQC says it will visit all care providers annually and that the number of inspections has risen to more than 2,500 between April and June, compared with just 886 between October and December last year. It is hiring another 100 inspectors — hopefully, the recruitment process can be speeded up.
Earlier this year, Cynthia Bowers failed to spot that Southern Cross — the leading private care home provider — was in difficulty. She did not respond to a whistleblower who contacted the CQC over horrific abuse at Winterbourne House near Bristol, filmed for an edition of Panorama, which resulted in staff being arrested and the home closed.
Dereliction in the care of the vulnerable should be addressed by a charismatic patient’s champion — not a professional pen-pusher and bureaucrat, who last week was addressing yet another conference in Westminster, when she could have been visiting unannounced a sub-standard NHS hospital somewhere in the UK.
Cynthia Bowers must resign — and hand over to someone who puts people before pamphlets, care before quotas and results before damage limitation.
Another obnoxious arrest by the British police
A wealthy family man was arrested on suspicion of murder yesterday after allegedly stabbing a burglar to death with his own knife.
Businessman Vincent Cooke, 39, was relaxing when he heard a knock at the front door of his detached home.
When he answered he was confronted by two men, at least one armed with a knife, who threatened him and tried to force their way into the £350,000 house in the Cheshire stockbroker belt.
With his wife and young son due home any minute, Mr Cooke fought desperately to keep the men out. In the struggle burglar Raymond Jacob, 37, was stabbed with his own knife and fell to the ground fatally injured. The second intruder fled.
Minutes later Mr Cooke’s wife, Karen, 35, and 12-year-old son Anthony arrived and watched in horror as the raider lay dying.
The incident happened in Bramhall, which boasts millionaire footballers, soap stars and TV presenters as residents.
It is the third time in six months that intruders have been stabbed to death by homeowners. The killings come after the Government pledged to bring in legislation which clarified the law on self-defence in England.
Justice Secretary Ken Clarke promised that householders who used ‘whatever force necessary’ on intruders in their homes would not be committing a criminal offence.
Last night Mr Cooke, who runs a same day courier and logistics business, was being questioned by detectives while his stunned family were being comforted by relatives.
He and his wife drive luxury cars, a gold Maserati and a silver Range Rover both with personalised registration plates, and detectives will be investigating whether they were targeted by the raiders for their wealth.
They will also examine whether the two men were known to Mr Cooke or had done business with him.
But sources close to the case were adamant that Mr Cooke is an ‘upstanding family man who was protecting his property and fearful for his family’s safety’.
A police source said last night: ‘At this moment it looks as if Mr Cooke was confronted at the door of his home by two men, at least one of whom was believed to have been armed with a knife. Officers are examining the possibility that the dead man was stabbed with this knife.’
The gender-free British passport: UK travellers may no longer have to declare their sex, to spare feelings of ‘transgender people’
Britain is preparing to rip up centuries-old rules by introducing passports which do not contain details of the holder’s sex.
The move, following pressure from the Lib Dems, is designed to spare transgender people and those who have both male and female sexual organs from having to tick ‘male’ or ‘female’ on their travel papers.
Currently, everybody must identify themselves as a man or woman, even when they are undergoing a sex-change operation or if they are considered ‘intersex’.
But with the Lib Dems promising to be ‘fierce champions of equality’, the Home Office has begun a consultation on changing the rules.
To satisfy international laws, the passport would still list a category titled ‘sex’, but would then contain a simple ‘X’ for everybody. Supporters say it will solve the problem of embarrassing situations at border controls, where people whose sex appears to differ from that in their passport are grilled for long periods by guards.
But some Home Office officials are concerned the change could make life harder for the already stretched UK Border Agency by giving them one fewer piece of information to work from.
Last night, the Home Office said: ‘We are exploring with international partners and relevant stakeholders the security implications of gender not being displayed in the passport.’
Home Office Minister Lynne Featherstone is under pressure to act from her fellow Lib Dem MPs.
One backbench MP, Julian Huppert, said: ‘There does not seem to be a need for identity documents of any kind to have gender information. It is not a very good biometric; it is roughly a 50:50 split.
Military ID, such as the MOD90, which obviously can have quite a high security clearance, contains no gender information. That might be what we should look at.’
Mrs Featherstone – who has just announced plans for gay weddings – has made a string of promises committing the Government to do more for transgender people.
While on my travels as a champion for women’s rights, I am and will be a champion for gay rights too. Britain must not get complacent. We are a world leader for gay rights, but… there is still more that we must do.
She said: ‘The UK Government is totally committed to creating a society that is fair for everyone. ‘We are committed to tackling prejudice and discrimination against transgender people at home and around the world. We need concerted government action to tear down barriers and help to build a fairer society for transgender people.’
And she said in a speech on Saturday: ‘While on my travels as a champion for women’s rights, I am and will be a champion for gay rights too. Britain must not get complacent. We are a world leader for gay rights, but… there is still more that we must do.’
Under existing rules, a ‘transgender’ person undergoing a sex-swap is free to change their identity to a new sex, once the procedure is complete and a gender recognition certificate has been issued.
While undergoing a sex change, a person can also nominate their intended new sex, and place that on their passport. They must produce a certificate from a doctor saying that is the gender under which they live their daily lives.
But people who are classed as intersex – a condition which people carry from birth, where they have male and female reproductive organs – are forced to make a choice.
Home Office officials say the review is wide-ranging and they are considering ‘all the gender options’.
The law in Britain could be changed in a matter of days. Passports come under the royal prerogative, so only a simple ministerial order would be required.
Nanny state health targets take the taste out of the traditional British fry-up
The traditional British fry-up is under threat from government health targets, industry experts warned yesterday. Butchers and retailers say a drive to cut salt levels will make breakfasts with bacon and sausages less appetising.
More than 60 food firms and supermarkets have to cut salt levels by next year to meet targets set by the Government.
At least 80 per cent of sausages are thought to exceed the threshold, which allows 1.13g of salt per 100g. The sausage maker Richmond’s products, for example, typically contain around 2.2g per 100g, while Tesco’s own-brand bangers contain 1.5g per 100g.
For bacon, which will be limited to 2.88g of salt per 100g, most supermarkets’ own brands exceed the threshold with up to 3.6g.
Ministers want to reduce our salt intake to 6g a day from 8.6g in 2008, the last year for which figures are available. They say eating too much salt can raise blood pressure, contributing to thousands of premature deaths every year from heart disease and strokes.
But Andrea Martinez-Inchausti, of the British Retail Consortium, said it was ‘pointless’ to keep reducing salt in products if it meant shoppers just added it at the table. She said: ‘If salt is reduced further there’s a danger that products will no longer taste the way consumers want them to.’
The BRC and the Food and Drink Federation have drawn up a list of eight products for which it is proving difficult to reduce salt without losing flavour. As well as bacon and sausages, they include bread, cheese, cakes and pastries, pesto and other sauces, and canned fish.
So far 62 retailers, including Sainsbury’s, Tesco, Marks & Spencer, Waitrose and Asda, have agreed to comply with the Government’s targets on salt reduction.
Top Economist Warns Green Jobs ‘Creation’ Will Undermine British Recovery
One of the UK’s leading energy and environment economists warns that the government’s promise that green energy policies will create tens of thousands of jobs and stimulate competitive industries is an illusion.
In his report The Myth of Green Jobs, published today by the Global Warming Policy Foundation, Professor Gordon Hughes (Edinburgh University) dispels this assumption by finding that
* The government target for generating electricity from renewable energy sources will involve a capital cost that is 9-10 times the amount required to meet the same demand by relying upon conventional power plants.
* The extra investment required for renewable energy – about £120 bln – will be diverted from more productive uses in the rest of the economy.
* Increases in the cost of energy together with the diversion of investment funds means that many manufacturing firms will either go bankrupt or relocate.
* It is impossible for the UK to acquire a long-term comparative advantage in the manufacture of renewable energy equipment by any combination of policies that are both feasible and affordable.
* Policies to promote renewable energy could add 0.6-0.7 percentage points per year to core inflation from now to 2020.
* The cumulative impact of these policies could amount to a loss of 2-3% of potential GDP for a period of 20 years or more.
“Claims by politicians and lobbyists that green energy policies will create a few thousand jobs are not supported by the evidence. In terms of the labour market, the gains for a small number of actual or potential employees in businesses specialising in renewable energy has to be weighed against the dismal prospects for a much larger group of workers producing tradable goods in the rest of the manufacturing sector,” Professor Hughes said.
One in five pupils learns nothing after the age of 11, says former British private school head
One in five British pupils ‘learns nothing’ at secondary school, according to head of the country’s leading private schools’ group. He says children in this country are falling behind the rest of the world, with those of all abilities failing to reach their potential.
The chairman of the Independent Schools Council said that the underachievement of the bottom 20 per cent – especially boys – was more exaggerated than in countries such as China, Finland and Japan.
Barnaby Lenon, a former headmaster at Harrow School, also said in a Daily Telegraph interview that the most gifted children were not reaching their full potential. ‘The biggest problem that this country faces is the underachievement of the bottom 20 per cent of pupils, particularly boys, who appear to learn nothing at school after the age of 11,’ he said.
‘That’s the biggest challenge. But the research is also pointing to the fact that those at the top end – the top 50 per cent academically – are not reaching the level that the top 50 per cent are reaching in Hong Kong, Shanghai and Finland.’
Mr Lenon waded into the debate after recent revelations that one in five children leaves primary school without having reached the standard reading level for an 11-year-old. ‘The contrast in achievement between the best and the worst is greater than in many other countries,’ he added.
He said that private schools could help address these problems by holding ‘masterclasses’ and by sponsoring state academies – but he denied that they were responsible for the problems. The chairman of the ISC, which represents 1,234 schools, said it was ‘silly’ to blame the private sector when it only accounted for 8 per cent of British schools.
He called for wider reform of the curriculum and exam system in order for the country to raise its standards to a competitive international level. He said: ‘When I was headmaster at Harrow, I recruited 15 to 20 boys a year from Hong Kong. In every case, they were two years ahead of English boys at maths. ‘You do not get that same sort of tail of underachievement in countries like China, Japan and Finland.’
There is a new lot of postings by Chris Brand just up — on his usual vastly “incorrect” themes of race, genes, IQ etc.