Still operating: the doctor whose botched surgery cost the NHS £1m

A surgeon who is facing claims he botched 85 operations is still working for the NHS

The hospital trust where Manjit Bhamra worked has already paid out £1 million to 10 patients whose surgery went badly wrong. Now it is facing a further 85 complaints – in what could become one of Britain’s biggest clinical negligence claims against a single surgeon.

Mr Bhamra has twice been referred to the General Medical Council but is now working at a different hospital which said it had “no concerns” about him.

The orthopaedic surgeon, 55, is accused of leaving hip patients in such pain that they were housebound and unable to work, with one man forced to sleep in a chair at night because he was unable to lie down.

Payments of between £1,750 to £500,000 have already been made in ten cases treated by Mr Bhamra at Rotherham Hospital, South Yorkshire – though liability was not accepted in all cases.

A patient in her 50s was left with one leg longer than the other, and in such pain that the entire hip joint had to be removed for almost three months before it was corrected, while one 23 year-old given the wrong hip implant was left disabled for life.

Negligence lawyers now considering the new complaints, most of them about his last two years at the hospital, which he left in 2007, said they were astonished at the number of patients who had contacted them.

The surgeon, 55, is now working at Pinderfields General Hospital, in Wakefield, and also works for the private Care UK group in Southampton and London.

Last week a series of patients told how procedures had gone wrong.

Wayne Pickering, 59, from Doncaster had his pelvis fractured during hip surgery in February 2006. The hospital has admitted negligence and paid compensation for the botched operation, which left the former semi-professional footballer in so much pain he was forced to give up his job.

Mr Pickering, a father of three, had already undergone several hip operations, following years spent playing football for Sheffield Wednesday and Bolton Wanderers and in South Africa. The revision surgery was to replace a “cup” which would hold the joint.

Mr Pickering said that when he came round from the procedure, Mr Bhamra told him: “‘I’ve nicked your artery, damaged the nerve and broken your pelvis’ – not the words you want to hear.”

Despite the need for further surgery, he was discharged after two weeks. It was not until last year that the corrective surgery took place.

Permanent damage to his sciatic nerve has left Mr Pickering, of Doncaster, in constant pain, and unable to walk or stand without crutches, while medication to cope with the pain brings short-term memory loss.

He was forced to give up his job as an engineering sales representative, because he cannot drive more than a few miles, and needs help from his wife Penny, to wash and dress.

Mr Pickering said: ” I used to be very fit, I used to run and play golf and now I can’t even get out of my chair without someone helping me. You have to be strong to cope with the pain but it does wear you down. There are days when I get quite angry.”

Winifred Mitchell, 91, from Rotherham, said her life had been ‘ruined’ after she was left housebound and needed a calliper after a hip replacement operation four years ago.

David Swailes, 67, was left without a hip for three years and still has to sleep in a chair at night because he is unable to lay down due to extreme pain. Mr Swailes, from Clifton, Rotherham, underwent surgery in 2006 but the replacement hip became loose and became septic so it was taken out. It took three years to be replaced by another consultant, leaving the pensioner with significant scarring and damage.

He said: ‘We heard he was a new kid on the block but when he had finished with me I needed a built-up shoe because one leg was three inches shorter.

‘When I went back to the hospital another consultant said that it had not been done right. I had to have special injections and I haven’t slept in a bed for five years. I have to sleep in a chair because I can’t stand the pain if I am lying down.’

Around the same period as the botched and allegedly botched surgery in 2006, the hospital’s operating theatres were filmed as part of a BBC documentary series in which businessman Gerry Robinson spent six months investigating the working of the NHS, and found serious tensions between doctors and managers.

Mr Bhamra, who was educated at Sheffield University, was scathing about the credentials of those attempting to manage the service, saying: “They’ve probably got three O-levels and they are managing people who have five or six degrees.”

Tim Annett, from lawyers Irwin Mitchell said: “We expected a few inquiries after the previous settlements but we were surprised to say the least so many people came forward with concerns about surgery carried out by Mr Bhamra. We are in the process of looking at the details those people have provided us to see whether or not they will be pursued and investigated.”

Mr Annett said the firm had contacted the GMC about its concerns but had not received a response. The GMC refused to disclose if he was the subject of any disciplinary action after it was twice asked to investigate the surgeon.

A spokesman for Rotherham Hospital said the trust had “a robust procedure in place in which to fully investigate any complaints that are received”. “If any patient has a concern following treatment we would advise them to contact their GP in the first instance for clinical advice as they are best placed to make sure they have access to the appropriate treatment and care,” the spokesman said.

Tim Hendra, Medical Director at Mid Yorkshire Hospitals NHS Trust, which runs Pinderfield hospital said that delivering safe high quality care was the hospital’s top priority, and that all medical staff were subject to a robust recruitment process and routine monitoring. He said: “As with any health care professional working at our Trust, we would take appropriate action if any concerns were raised.”

The Medical Defence Union, which represents Mr Bhamra, said it was unable to comment due to patient confidentiality.


British government targets employers in new migrant crackdown

Companies could be forced to say how many foreign workers they employ as part of a Government clampdown on immigration.

The move comes as ministers seek to tighten the rules in an attempt to meet a Tory pre-election pledge to cut immigration significantly. Proposals will be set out within weeks, while David Cameron may outline some of the details in a speech this week.

Other elements of the package are likely to include:

* A drive against sham marriages, with the “probationary period” before which spouses can settle in Britain increased from two years to five.

* A review of the work visa system, used by up to 21,700 skilled employees a year to come to Britain.

* A move to raise the minimum salary — currently £20,000 a year — that some non-EU migrants must earn if they are to be permitted to work in Britain.

A fresh set of proposals is likely to be unveiled within weeks as the Coalition sets out in detail how it aims to bring down net immigration from outside the European Union to below 100,000 a year by 2015.

The Conservatives hope to seize back the political initiative after their party conference was overshadowed by a row over how an immigrant was able to use his ownership of a pet cat as part of a Human Rights Act ruling to secure residency in Britain.

The most radical of the proposals could see companies for the first time having to publish the nationality of their employees.

David Cameron and Theresa May, the Home Secretary, are to ask the independent Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) to review the level of the minimum income many immigrants from outside the European Union must earn before they are allowed to come to Britain – currently £20,000 a year.

The aim is to have a higher minimum level so that only wealthier people are permitted to come to the UK.

The MAC is also set to be asked to undertake a wholesale review of the system of work visas – which are “capped” so that a maximum of 21,700 skilled and highly skilled foreign employees can use them to come to Britain from outside the EU annually.

There will also be a new drive against sham marriages, which typically involve someone from outside the EU marrying an EU resident in a bid to be allowed to stay in Britain.

The so-called “probationary period” before which spouses and partners cannot settle in Britain will be increased from two years to five years.

The idea of making companies disclose how many of their workers are British, and how many are foreign, is likely to meet with resistance from employers who say it could increase bureaucracy and lead to a backlash.

Ministers believe, however, that such a move would be a useful tool in aiding public transparency on the issue. Damian Green, the Immigration Minister, said in a speech last week to the Conservative Party conference in Manchester that the government’s “first responsibility” was to help unemployed British workers.

The proposals come at the end of two separate Home Office immigration consultations – one on employment-related routes to settlement in Britain and one on family migration

Both are aimed at breaking the link between temporary migration, often related to employment, and permanent settlement – with ministers keen to encourage what they term the” best and brightest global” talent to the UK while doing more to deter other groups.

The family migration review also looked at the contentious “Article 8” of the European Convention on Human Rights which has allowed foreign criminals to avoid being deported on the grounds that they have a right to a “family life”.

At last week’s Tory conference Mrs May vowed to close the loophole opened by Article 8 in the wake of campaigns, including one launched by The Sunday Telegraph. In doing so she sparked the “catgate” row with her cabinet colleague Ken Clarke, the Justice Secretary, when she claimed that a Bolivian illegal immigrant could not be deported because he and his partner had a pet cat.

Some of the details of the government’s proposals may be outlined by Mr Cameron in a speech on immigration he is preparing to give on Monday.

Earlier this year he pledged to reduce net migration – the difference between those coming to Britain and those leaving it – to the “tens of thousands” a year.

However, the most recent figures issued by the Office for National Statistics showed how far the coalition still has to go, with net migration rising by 21 per last year to 239,000.

The renewed focus on measures to clamp down on immigration reflects fears at senior Government levels that current measures are unlikely to have the necessary effect on bringing numbers down – as well as a recognition that the issue is still close to the top of list of concerns cited by voters in opinion polls.

Ministers have tried to pin the blame on Labour’s record, with Mr Green accusing the party, during its 13 years in power, of “talking tough and acting weak” and allowing the problem to “spiral out of control.”

Yvette Cooper, the shadow home secretary, has admitted Labour made mistakes – particularly by not bringing in the current “points-based” regime for migrants earlier than 2008. However she has branded the coalition’s targets “unworkable” and accused ministers of “making promises they can’t keep.”

A decision to axe 5,000 jobs at the UK Border Agency will also greatly hamper the fight against illegal immigration, Ms Cooper argues.

The 21,700-a-year limit on work visas, set in February this year, was one of the first steps towards achieving the Coalition’s promised reduction in net migration.

By setting a minimum required income for skilled workers coming in through this route, the Government intended to protect lower-paid jobs so they could be filled by British workers rather than by imported labour.

Migrants must also work in particular trades where the MAC has identified skills shortages in the domestic labour market, based on feedback from industry and other bodies.

However, when drawing up the new rules, ministers controversially decided not to count in the total migrants who arrive in Britain through the “intra company transfers” system. This decision potentially allows companies to bring tens of thousands more non-EU staff into the country without derailing the Government’s attempts to hit its target – and trade unions have said the decision means that British workers are still being undercut by lower-wage foreign rivals, particularly in the computer industry.

Reducing the number of people coming to Britain under the “family route” is politically difficult for ministers because of the wide Commonwealth links and pressure from immigrant communities already settled in the UK.

But on sham marriages, a recent Home Office consultation proposed a number of additional measures, including combining some of role of local registrars with UK Border Agency functions, and tougher requirements for foreign nationals seeking to marry in the UK.

Last year 40,500 foreign nationals were allowed to come to Britain because of their romantic links here. A further 11,600 foreigners who were already living here under other types of visa switched to the romantic option, claiming they wanted to remain in Britain “for love”.

This second category is the main source of “sham marriages” where vows are taken with a phoney partner – who is often paid to take part – so a foreigner can stay in Britain much longer than they are entitled to.


Discontent with immigration on the British Left too

It’s not only Conservatives who rail against the Human Rights Act – as these extracts from the private diary of former Immigration Minister Phil Woolas amply demonstrate…

A Labour former Immigration Minister last night said Theresa May was right to say human rights laws make a mockery of the way Britain deals with asylum seekers.

Phil Woolas also released extracts from an explosive diary revealing the ‘absurd’ degree to which the immigration service was hampered by court rulings on human rights.

Mr Woolas, who was in charge of immigration policy at the time of a court ruling to let a Bolivian escape deportation partly because he had a cat, said he ‘strongly agreed’ with Home Secretary Mrs May.

At the Tory conference last week, she used the case of Camilo Soria Avila and his cat Maya to justify her plans to rein in abuse of Labour’s Human Rights Act, sparking a row with Justice Secretary Ken Clarke who disputed her account.

But Mr Woolas said: ‘Some people, Ken Clarke included, assumed Theresa had made it up. But she didn’t need to. I should know.’
Maya the cat, who is at the centre of the immigration row between Ken Clarke and Theresa May

Mr Woolas, Immigration Minister from October 2008 until the 2010 election, was unaware of the cat ruling until he saw it in newspapers. But to back his case that the Human Rights Act and European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) were crippling the immigration system, he released extracts from his private diary as a minister.

Published below, they reveal his anger at learning:

* Osama Bin Laden’s son could use British Freedom of Information rules to see Government files rejecting his visa application, even though he lived in the Middle East.

* A suspected drug lord was freed because the French navy vessel which caught him took too long to bring him to port and charge him.

* A convicted rapist due to be deported could still get British legal aid in India to fight for custody of his estranged son.

* There was a challenge to the Lords against deporting someone to Greece because the Greek asylum system might breach the person’s human rights.

He added last night: ‘The root of the problem is that the original human rights rules gave protection against persecution to citizens of Europe.

‘Yet over the years, judges’ decisions have extended these rights to people who are simply in Europe. We cannot put right the wrongs of dysfunctional countries from the courtrooms of Britain. That’s why the Home Secretary is right to seek to amend the law to give power back to Parliament.’

He said that ultimately, the only solution was to negotiate changes to the ECHR.


In Britain, it’s not only government bureaucrats who are nasty and inefficient

Give a Brit a little bit of power and his/her inner Hitler comes out

British Gas has been accused of using ‘bullying tactics’ on a 91-year-old to recover an unpaid £5,000 bill – despite him never having had gas at his home.

Sir John Tavare, 91, and his 87-year-old wife Lady Daphne were stunned when a debt collector arrived at their house in Prestbury, Cheshire, and claimed they owed the money. This was because the couple, who have lived there for 30 years, have never used the fuel.

Sir John, a respected businessman who received a knighthood for a campaign to clear up the River Mersey, later called police after thinking he could have been the victim of a scam.

But British Gas admitted there had been a blunder, and eventually apologised to the family by stating the outstanding debt was owed by someone at a property of a ‘similar address’.

Nick Tavare, the couple’s son, said his parents were deeply disturbed by the experience and accused British Gas of employing ‘bullying’ tactics without having first made sufficient checks.

He said: ‘A man came along to see the gas meter. He refused to show any identification. ‘When he was told there was no meter, he began to shout ‘If you don’t give me access to the house, I will come back with a bailiff in the middle of the night and kick the door down’. Fortunately for my parents, their carer was in and answered the door as well as a guest who also overheard what was said. ‘My parents are 91 and 87. If they had been in on their own, who knows what would have happened?’

Sir John, the former chairman of the Mersey Basin Campaign, helped raise funding to clean up the polluted river and attract new developments. He was awarded a CBE for services to industry.

His son added: ‘One of the problems was we couldn’t speak to anyone in authority to deal with the problem. ‘British Gas eventually conceded the house with the alleged debt has the same street name but a different post code – and a completely different name. ‘How can it be that they can send debt collectors to a house that has no gas without doing any basic checks first of all?’

British Gas bosses apologised for the mix-up and spokesman Sara Powell-Davies said: ‘I am very sorry for any upset and inconvenience. ‘We visited their property in error and we have contacted Mr and Mrs Tavare to apologise and to advise them that we have updated our records to make sure this doesn’t happen again.’

And debt recovery firm Chase Solutions denied their caller had acted aggressively on the doorstep. John Wolfenden, from the Chorley-based firm, said: ‘Our agent visited the address, in connection with an unpaid British Gas account of £5,134.62. ‘Our agent, who has been engaged in this work for some years, denies emphatically any allegation that he behaved in a threatening, bullying or intimidatory way. ‘Our agent asserts that throughout his conduct was business-like.’

A spokesman for Cheshire Police confirmed they had received a phone call immediately after the visit. He said : ‘A call reported that a man who purported to be a debt collector was demanding money in an aggressive manner. ‘On investigation it transpired he was a legitimate collector working on behalf of a gas company but had gone to the wrong address.’


British Police say sorry to cafe owner threatened with arrest over Bible DVDs

Give a Brit a little bit of power and his/her inner Hitler comes out

Police have apologised to a Christian cafe owner they threatened with arrest for displaying passages from the Bible on a television screen. The Mail on Sunday told last month how Jamie Murray was visited by two officers who warned he was breaking the law by showing the DVDs.

But after our report appeared, another officer from Lancashire Constabulary visited Mr Murray’s cafe and admitted the force had misinterpreted the Public Order Act, which bans the use of insulting or abusive language – but allows the reasonable expression of religious beliefs.

Mr Murray, 31, welcomed the apology but said he would pursue an official complaint against the force because, he claims, it still refuses to admit he was threatened with arrest.

The two original officers visited his Salt and Light cafe in Blackpool after police received a complaint that Mr Murray was inciting hatred against homosexuals by showing New Testament DVDs.

Mr Murray said: ‘I accept the police apology as far as it goes, and I forgive them. But some things need to be cleared up. ‘They have said they were duty-bound to investigate me. But it wasn’t an investigation. They had already made up their minds I was in the wrong. They never asked to look at the Bible DVDs or asked my side of the story. They have also said they never banned me from showing the Bible DVDs. That’s not true. ‘I asked them straight – “Are you telling me I can’t show the Bible DVDs?”

They left me in no doubt that I risked being arrested if I continued to do so. I don’t want this to happen to other Christians. I won’t let the police brush this under the carpet.’

He claimed he was subjected to an ‘aggressive inquisition’ for nearly an hour and feared that if he did not switch off the DVDs, he might be led out of the cafe in handcuffs.

And he said he was told by WPC June Dorrian, the community beat manager, that if he continued to show offensive material under the Public Order Act, the police would have to ‘take the matter further’.

The Salt and Light cafe has for years repeatedly played the entire 26-hour-long Watchword Bible – a 15-DVD set produced in America in which a narrator reads the whole of the New Testament – on a small flatscreen TV on the back wall. The sound is turned down but the words flash on to the screen against a series of images.

Mr Murray worked in a homeless shelter for five years before taking over the cafe three months ago – and said it prides itself on being an oasis of calm in a high-crime area of the seaside town.

The police’s original response provoked dismay among Christians, with former Conservative Minister Ann Widdecombe writing in a newspaper column: ‘Does the Chief Constable of Lancashire want to ban the Bible itself? After all, that is the logic of his position if what his force is doing meets with his approval.’

And Mike Judge of the Christian Institute, which is backing Mr Murray, said: ‘This incident is serious and needs to be dealt with through official channels. Too many police officers – not just in Lancashire – are using the Public Order Act to investigate Christians for expressing their beliefs.’

A spokesman for Lancashire Constabulary insisted they had merely ‘discussed’ the matter with Mr Murray ‘and at no point was he asked to remove any materials or arrested’.

Initially, the force had said they were satisfied the beat manager had performed her duties professionally and ‘the action we took was completely proportionate’.

However, the spokesman has now admitted: ‘The officer misinterpreted what she believed to be appropriate legislation. An apology has been made to the proprietor of the cafe for any distress we may have caused and this was accepted. As a result of this incident, the Constabulary is issuing guidance to staff.’


No such thing as a happy Greenie

A planeload of British holidaymakers have made aviation history by flying to Lanzarote on a plane fuelled by used chip pan oil. The Thomson Airways flight from Birmingham airport was the first UK commercial biofuels flight ever from a UK airport.

One of the engines on the twin- engined Boeing 757 flight was operated on a 50 per cent blend of ‘Hydroprocessed Esters and Fatty Acids’, produced from used cooking oil, and 50 per cent Jet A1 fuel.

But environmental protesters stripped naked and covered themselves in red body paint in a bid to disrupt the launch. Calling themselves Plane Stupid they said that rainforests were being wrecked to make way for biofuel plantations.

The cooking oil used for the Thomson flights is collected from the kitchens of hotels and restaurants and then goes through a special processing treatment.

Carl Gissing, director of customer service at Thomson Airways, admitted that the biofuel cost around five to six times the price of aviation fuel, but said the airline was prepared to ‘put its money where our mouth is’ because it believed in sustainable biofuels.

After today’s light, carrying 232 passengers, there will be a six-week gap before Thomson starts a full programme of biofuel flights in 2012 from Birmingham Airport.

Dirk Konemeijer, managing director of skyNRG, which supplies the biofuel, said it made sense to utilise used cooking oil because it was a waste product which couldn’t be used for anything else.

It was not economically viable at present to supply the whole of the aviation industry with the fuel and that was why government support was needed.

Long-term other technology was necessary and in three to four years a totally new fuel could come along.

Joe Peacock, from Birmingham Friends of the Earth, however, said: ‘We cannot ignore the massive environmental and social problems caused by trying to feed our addiction to fossil fuels with plant-based alternatives.’

Plane Stupid protester Chris Cooper said: ‘Thomson seem to be acknowledging that we can’t continue business as usual in the face of the current climate emergency. ‘It’s a shame their solution is to make matters worse.

‘Vast tracts of rainforest, eco systems vital to halting climate change, are currently being trashed to make way for biofuel plantations. ‘Land that grows food is being stolen from some of the world’s poorest people so that it can start feeding planes. It’s a disaster.’


A prominent British Greenie regrets

Credit to warming alarmist George Monbiot for walking the talk, but it turns out that living green costs plenty:

I have two investments:

A savings account with Smile, which currently contains £12,971.

A savings account with Alliance and Leicester (now Santander), which currently contains £1,200.

Until recently I had more savings, but I spent them eco-fitting my house. In view of what has now happened to the market, that might not have been the wisest of investments.


An apple is bad for your teeth but Coke is safe!

You can’t win! A Coke for the teacher? One thing is sure: Ignore all advice from epidemiologists

Eating apples can be up to four times more damaging to teeth than carbonated drinks, according to new research. Wine and lager also increase the risk of dental damage but pickled onions and grapefruit, which are consumed less frequently, do not.

‘It is not only about what we eat, but how we eat it,’ says Professor David Bartlett, head of prosthodontics at King’s College London Dental Institute, who led the study.

‘Doctors quite rightly say that eating apples is good, but if you eat them slowly the high acidity levels can damage your teeth. The drinks most often associated with dietary erosion, particularly cola, showed no increased risk.

The results emphasise that dietary advice should be targeted at strong acids rather than some of the commonly consumed soft drinks.’

In the new study, the researchers looked for links between tooth wear at several sites in the mouth, and diet in more than 1,000 men and women aged 18 to 30.

They looked for damage to the 2mm surface enamel of their teeth, and at the dentine, the main supporting structure of the tooth beneath the enamel, and compared it with diet.

People who ate apples were 3.7 times more likely to have dentine damage, while carbonated drink consumers had no additional risk.

Fruit juice increased the likelihood of damage to the enamel around the top of the teeth near the gums fourfold, while lager, which is acidic, raised the chances of dentine damage threefold.

Some apples contain as much as four teaspoons of sugar which contributes to raised acid levels in the mouth.

Dr Glenys Jones, nutritionist at the Medical Research Council’s Human Nutrition Research unit, says: ‘Fruit can be acidic and obviously does have a sugar content but I would not want anyone to be discouraged from consuming fruit and fruit juices.’

One suggestion is to eat your apple with milk or a piece of cheese as both contain calcium, which neutralises acid. Drinking water immediately after eating an apple will also help, washing away harmful effects.

Dr Jones adds: ‘Drinking fruit juice and smoothies with a straw is a way of protecting your teeth. ‘Brushing your teeth before eating acidic foods can also help because it provides a barrier between the food and the teeth.’


British PM’s plan for a fat tax is clutching at straws

The PM should get the nation off its economic backside before worrying about our waistlines

Terry Wogan

So, the Prime Minister is “seriously considering a food levy to tackle Britain’s obesity crisis”. Give it a rest, Dave. This is a smokescreen everyone can see through. We’d prefer you to get the country off its backside first, then worry about our figures.

Anyway, Prime Minister, I know it’s the conker season but this is a very gnarled chestnut you’re trying to play with. Four years ago, the Labour health secretary, Alan Johnson, put it forcefully: “Obesity could be as big a crisis” – there’s that “c” word again – “as climate change, unless the nation starts to lose weight soon.”

At the time, some thinking people wondered how an increasing number of fat people could threaten all life on the planet. Perhaps, they speculated, heavier people have a deeper carbon footprint? Could the increase in weight make Earth fall out of its orbit? People were worried, but from on high, answer came there none.

Then, just in time to spare everybody’s feelings, came another report, a couple of days after Mr Johnson’s scary words, that being obese is not your fault. The nation let its belt out a couple of notches and breathed more freely again.

This new report said that, as we all suspected, being overweight is the result of “a society in which energy-dense and cheap foods, labour-saving devices, motorised transport and sedentary work are rife”. So, being obese is only partly to do with people choosing to stuff themselves with fatty food, or downing copious amounts of calorific booze. Fair’s fair, Cameron – if you’re serious about the fat levy, you’ll have to put extra tax on vacuum cleaners, washing machines, trains, cars and three-piece suites. Ed will have a field day.

And if you’re thinking, PM, that an easier way out would be to get everyone doing what P G Wodehouse called his “daily dozen” – callisthenics – it may be worth pointing out that our Stone Age ancestors didn’t drink or smoke, ate nothing but fruit and berries, got plenty of exercise running away from velociraptors, but never saw the wrong side of 35. On the other hand, the world’s oldest creature, the giant tortoise, has hardly moved a muscle in 200 years (to be fair, it only eats vegetables).

I’ve no wish to confuse the issue further, but a couple of years ago research revealed that modern food production is so energy-intensive that more carbon is emitted providing a person with the energy to walk to the shops than a car would emit covering the same distance.

So there you have it, Dave: exercise is not the answer, either, if you want to stay green. And if you want to stay in power, taxing cheap foods, which is what a “fat levy” will do, is only going to hurt further the people you need to help.


Times Higher university rankings: Britain has better universities than the government realises

Britain has better universities than the government realises, the editor of Times Higher Education has said following the publication of its World University Rankings.

Ann Mroz, Editor of Times Higher Education, said: “The UK is blessed with some truly brilliant universities – more brilliant than the government understands judging by its hastily concocted higher education reforms, with all the uncertainty they entail.

“While we may be second to the US in terms of the overall number of world-class institutions, given the disparity in funding levels our performance is nothing short of staggering. Put simply, we spend much less on our universities than many of our competitors – less than the OECD average – and yet outperform almost all of them.

“These facts make the massive gamble that we are now taking by all but abolishing public funding for university teaching, and replacing it with tuition fees, all the more questionable. Consultation on the White Paper on the future of higher education has just closed. The government should heed these ranking results, reflect on concerns raised about the speed and extent of its planned reforms and think again. This is a political fix for something that was never broken.”

This year’s rankings show that while the US still continues to dominate higher education, the UK has firmly cemented its place as the second-best higher education system in the world, based on the number of institutions in the top 200.

The UK has 32 universities in the top 200, three more than last year, and seven in the top 50 (two more than last year). However, there was a fall in the number in the top 100, with more universities than before languishing in the bottom half of the table.

Oxford is now officially the country’s top university, inching ahead of Cambridge. Oxford’s success is related in part to a refinement in methodology this year to make Times Higher Education’s rankings the first global league table to reflect subject mix fairly. It also pipped Cambridge on international outlook and scored better on research funding after normalisation. Imperial College is the third British institution in the top 10. With University College London also in the top 20, there is a widening gap in the UK between a super-elite and the rest of Britain’s leading institutions.

The number two position must not be taken for granted, however, in this pivotal time for British universities, said Mroz. Funding is an essential factor in the success of a university. Recent OECD figures (September 2011) have shown that spending on higher education in the UK has fallen from 1.3% of GDP in last year’s report to 1.2% this year, against an average of 1.5%. These latest figures are based on 2008 data, before the financial crisis and current funding reforms started to take hold, so in reality that spend is probably even lower.

While the government is trying to address this through tuition fees there is huge uncertainty as to whether this will work and it could result in a weakening of the UK knowledge economy. One thing is certain: as other countries across Europe and Asia continue to invest heavily in higher education, increased funding – public or private – will be vital if British institutions are to maintain their advantage at the forefront of global higher education.



About jonjayray

I am former member of the Australia-Soviet Friendship Society, former anarcho-capitalist and former member of the British Conservative party. The kneejerk response of the Green/Left to people who challenge them is to say that the challenger is in the pay of "Big Oil", "Big Business", "Big Pharma", "Exxon-Mobil", "The Pioneer Fund" or some other entity that they see, in their childish way, as a boogeyman. So I think it might be useful for me to point out that I have NEVER received one cent from anybody by way of support for what I write. As a retired person, I live entirely on my own investments. I do not work for anybody and I am not beholden to anybody
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