NHS crackdown on ‘hidden waiting lists’

The Government is set to launch a crackdown on the number of NHS patients in England who have to wait for an extended period of time to receive treatment. The current target time for hospitals to see non-urgent patients is 18 weeks, but ministers are concerned that there is no incentive to treat people once that period has elapsed. It was reported that 250,000 people are still waiting for treatment after the target was missed in their cases.

A spokesman for the Department of Health confirmed that the initiative was in place but said full details would be announced later today.

Health Secretary Andrew Lansley said targets created by the Labour government had created “hidden waiting lists”. He said: “Because of Labour’s perverse approach, the NHS actually had an incentive not to treat patients.

“The new approach we will take from next year will clamp down on this practice. We will reduce the number of patients on hidden waiting lists, ensuring everyone gets access to the treatment they need.”

Jo Webber, deputy policy director of the NHS Confederation, said she welcomed what the government was trying to do. “This indicator will shine a spotlight on one of the many aspects of patient waiting the government does not currently measure.”

There are currently 2.6 million patients on waiting lists for non-emergency treatment in England. Of those, nearly 250,000 have waited for longer than 18 weeks. Of which, just over 100,000 have waited for longer than six months and 20,000 for more than a year The NHS sees about 300,000 in-patients a month and nearly 900,000 out-patients

But shadow health secretary Andy Burnham said the government was having to introduce these new rules because of Mr Lansley’s failure to “get a grip” on waiting times. And he added the government’s overhaul of the NHS would just make matter worse as NHS hospitals would become distracted by competing with the private sector.

“This will take us straight back to bad old days of the Tory NHS, where patients are forced to choose between waiting longer or paying to go private.”

And Professor John Appleby, of the King’s Fund, a health think tank, questioned whether the current system was creating perverse incentives. He said there was some evidence the longest waits were actually going down.

“If they really want to tackle the longest waits they could simply say that no patient should

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Doubling amount husbands must earn to £26,000 would block two thirds of immigrant brides, says government watchdog

Two thirds of foreign wives could be banned from the UK under plans to stop immigrants becoming ‘a burden on the state’. Government immigration advisers say that the minimum salary required to bring a spouse to Britain should go up significantly, and may even be doubled.

The proposals could mean more than half of the UK’s population would not be able to bring in a foreign partner, as they might not earn enough to support them without relying on benefits. And the threshold may be pushed even higher for those trying to bring children to the UK.

Professor David Metcalf, chairman of the Migration Advisory Committee, said a minimum salary of between £18,600 and £25,700 should be introduced for UK residents sponsoring a partner or dependant for UK citizenship. This minimum, which applies equally to British citizens and immigrants, is currently set at around £13,700.

Some 40,000 foreign wives, husbands and partners were granted visas to join their family in the UK last year, but that number would be cut by up to 63 per cent under the proposals.

The Government asked the advisers to identify the salary a worker would need to earn to support a spouse or partner ‘without them becoming a burden on the state’, Professor Metcalf said.

The lowest figure in the proposed range, £18,600, is the income level at which many benefits, including housing benefit and tax credits, are withdrawn, while the highest figure, £25,700, represents the typical income of a one-adult household.

It would mean that between a quarter and a half of full-time adult workers would be unable to bring their partners to the UK – but many others, including the unemployed and pensioners, could be prevented too.

Prof Metcalf said the proposals do not take into account Britons’ right to a family life. ‘We have to abide by the terms of reference that we are set up for, and that’s to answer the questions which the Government sets us, and not go off on a track of our own,’ he said. ‘It’s for others to then decide whether in some senses that question is a bit wrong, [if] it’s in this case too economic focused, or quite possibly we’ve not addressed it properly.’

He added that the current threshold was ‘a bit low’, and suggested there was ‘justification for raising the pay threshold’ to prevent a huge benefits bill for spouses from abroad.

The MAC’s figures show that of the 40,000 spouses and partners brought in from outside the EU, nearly a third were from India, Pakistan or Bangladesh, while 6 per cent came from the U.S. and 5 per cent from Nepal. It added that while 94 per cent of those based in the UK with a spouse abroad wanted their partner to join them, half earned less than £20,100 and three quarters earned less than £30,500.

The Institute for Public Policy Research warned that if the Government accepted the proposals and went ahead with the policy, ‘it is likely to be challenged in the courts’.

Matt Cavanagh, the think-tank’s associate director, said: ‘It isn’t unreasonable – particularly in the current economic climate – to ask whether, if someone is destitute or entirely dependent on benefits, they should be allowed to bring in a spouse or partner who is likely to end up in a similar position.

‘But introducing an income threshold at £25,700 – the level of the national median income – would effectively bar half the population from bringing a spouse or partner from abroad. ‘We’re not talking about people who are destitute or living on benefits, we are talking about people who are working and getting an average wage.’

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Useless workshy British youth

The product of a generous welfare state and dumbed-down, value-free schools. No need to work so why should they? And the bosses don’t want them anyway. Given their “attitude”, I certainly would be unlikely to hire any of them

Around 500 foreigners landed a job in Britain every day over the past year while the number of UK-born workers plunged. Official figures yesterday painted a shockingly bleak picture of a jobs market in crisis as unemployment hit a 17-year high.

The Office for National Statistics said the number of British-born workers has crashed by 311,000 in a year, equal to more than 850 a day. But in the same period, the number of foreign-born employees jumped by 181,000 – or 495 a day.

Ministers admitted the situation was ‘unacceptable’, although bosses warned that many young British workers were too lazy and too bad at basics such as punctuality to be worth hiring. But experts said the latest figures highlight the urgency of tackling the immigration problem.

Yesterday Chris Grayling, the Employment Minister, was asked about why one branch of the sandwich chain Pret A Manger appeared to be staffed entirely by foreigners.

He told Sky News: ‘It is certainly a situation that I find unacceptable. Of course, this country has benefited from people coming in from other countries to work.

‘But I want to see more young people in positions in this country and I want … to see them getting jobs that become vacant, rather than people coming into the UK.’

It comes as unemployment among those aged 16 to 24 has ballooned to its highest level on record, topping one million for the first time.

Overall unemployment is currently 2.62million, its highest since 1994. The number of employees has dropped by 305,000 between July and September, the largest fall since 1992. Last month, however, the number of people claiming unemployment benefits rose by just 5,000, indicating, that many of those out of work refuse to claim because they expect to find a job again soon.

Dr John Philpott, chief economic adviser to the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, said the general picture meant it already felt like a second downturn had begun for millions of workers. ‘This is a miserable time for UK workers as well as the jobless,’ he said ‘The anaemic “jobs-light/pay-tight” recovery itself feels just like a recession.’

Sir Andrew Green, of the Migrationwatch think-tank, described the figures as ‘stunning’. He said: ‘The immigration lobby can no longer pretend that these massive levels of immigration have no significant effect on the job prospects for British workers who are now unemployed.’

The crisis facing British-born workers comes after business leaders and lobby groups have warned they prefer foreign workers. The British Chambers of Commerce said many school leavers and graduates with ‘fairly useless’ degrees are unemployable because they lack basic skills.

Dr Adam Marshall, director of policy at the British Chambers of Commerce, said the fault does not lie with the young person, but their education. ‘There may be a course in underwater basket weaving, but that does not mean anybody will actually want to employ you at the end of it,’ he said.

A report from the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, meanwhile, said bosses preferred foreign workers because they had a more ‘positive’ attitude.

Iain Duncan Smith, the Work and Pensions Secretary, warned recently that Britain was in ‘the last chance saloon’ if it wants to get British people off benefits and into the workplace.

Ministers in his department are understood to be ‘concerned’ at the figures. ‘It’s not a pretty picture,’ said one source. ‘It makes it very difficult to do welfare reform when there are so many people coming in.’

A new Government scheme, announced yesterday, will offer a £1,500 cash incentive to small firms who hire an apprentice for the first time. Under the proposal, companies will be forced to educate the young person in English and maths to a level at which they would be able to pass a GCSE in both subjects.

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Meet the British bosses who say: Give us foreign workers every time

CHARLIE MULLINS – PLUMBING BOSS

The number of foreign employees at a leading firm of plumbers has doubled over the past two years because British workers lack the right work ethic. Charlie Mullins, the 52-year-old founder of Pimlico Plumbers, said Britons would ‘rather be footballers than do an honest day’s work’.

Mr Mullins, whose firm has 200 staff, said he was forced to employ foreign-born people because they work harder than their British counterparts. ‘We’re increasingly employing foreign workers. They have the right attitude and are prepared to work harder,’ he said.

‘The younger British generation who come in for interviews are often sent by the benefit people and have no desire to work. ‘It’s a case of “won’t work”, not “can’t work”. They feel as if the country owes them a living.’

He said the number of foreign-born workers he employed at the company, London’s largest independent plumbers, had doubled in the past two years to 40, or 20 per cent of his staff.

They are mostly from South Africa and work as plumbers and tradesmen, roles which command annual salaries between £50,000 and £70,000.

But he also employs workers from Ireland, Italy, Australia and Spain in various roles in both the administrative side of the business and the trade side.

And he said his foreign-born employees tended to earn more than native workers because they were willing to put in overtime and keen to increase their workload.

Mr Mullins, from Kent, founded the firm in 1979. It now has a turnover of £17million. But he said that many of the British people he interviewed for jobs had the wrong attitude and demanded too much.

‘British workers are too picky and choosy and not prepared to work hard,’ he said. ‘They are demanding ridiculous money. ‘Many of the young people who come in for interviews have never even been in a workplace. Many of them have degrees: I don’t need people with degrees – I need people with the right attitude.’

KEITH ABEL – ORGANIC GREENGROCER

Keith Abel was forced to employ foreign-born workers because his popular firm, which delivers organic groceries, has struggled to find young British people to fill vacant positions. He said some young Britons were trapped in the benefits system and did not want to get up early to do a job for £7-an-hour when they could rely on Government handouts.

Mr Abel, who started Abel and Cole more than 20 years ago, said: ‘We’ve got a fantastic workforce, we’ve got extremely hard-working people. ‘It’s just a bit of a tragedy that a considerable and significant number of them are from Eastern Europe and not the local communities given the rates of unemployment in the local area.’

He said his company could not recruit young British people to work for £7.25-an-hour as delivery drivers and that some young British people on benefits would rather receive handouts than work.

‘People are not prepared to start with what they deem to be menial jobs. Terry Leahy, the head of Tesco, famously started stacking shelves. Everyone starts at the bottom.’ ‘People who are in the benefits system struggle with the concept of getting out of bed at 5.30 to do a six o’clock until three o’clock shift on £7 an hour when the actual additional income they’d be taking home is initially very small,’ he told BBC Radio 5 Live.

‘The point is, the better-paid work comes for the people who start on the lower-paid work. There must be a solution whereby the Government is able to wean people off benefits rather than shut them off completely when somebody goes into a job.’

He said he would happily find roles for young British people who were out of work. ‘If people who are on the unemployment register want to ask us for jobs, we’d interview them in exactly the same way we interview anyone else,’ he added.

‘Business people are in there to do business. Politicians are in there to solve problems like unemployment.’

TERRY ROGERS – HOTEL OWNER

While horrified that more than a million young people in Britain are unemployed, I’m afraid I’m not at all surprised. After working in the catering industry for 16 years – many of those as a manager seeking to employ staff – I have come to the sad conclusion that many young people simply do not want to work.

Of course they say they want a job. They send off job applications and turn up for interviews. But when it comes down to hard graft, they are simply not interested. The truth is that young people think the state owes them a living.

Underpinning everything is a welfare state which creates a culture where no one worries whether they have a job or not because there’s always free money from the Government to fall back on.

Also, brought up in school and home environments where criticism is practically non-existent, when they face the tough, challenging world of work, they are unable to cope.

To hear them complain about the shortage of jobs you would think they are desperate to work, willing to walk over hot coals to get a job. However, nothing could be further from the truth.

During my career, I have interviewed and employed many young people. And it shames me to say this but it was often easier to teach English to foreign applicants than it is to try to instill the right work ethic in our own English-speaking youth.

Time and again I see young people turn up for interviews wearing grubby jeans or tracksuits. They smoke and talk on the phone to their friends.

Many of them come with their partner or a parent (some even send their parents on ahead while they have a lie-in). What’s more, a lot don’t seem interested in the post at all – having turned up just so I can sign their Jobseekers’ Allowance form which means they can continue to receive welfare benefits.

Of those who do inquire seriously about the jobs, they often demand preposterous conditions. Many say they don’t want to work weekends or evenings because they want to go out with their friends. One applicant said the half-hour walk to work was too far.

One wretched soul told me he couldn’t work on Friday nights or Saturday mornings because he would be out with friends on Friday evenings and hung-over on Saturday morning! And they expect me to reward their commitment with a job?

Rather than interviewees doing their best to persuade me that I should employ them, the roles have become absurdly reversed with me having to persuade them to take the job.

Already I have had to let eight people go – and we have only been open since March – because they didn’t have the right attitude. One phoned in sick on his second day and never came back. Another lasted two weeks then she said the job was not for her because she missed Friday nights out with friends.

Another youngster was training for an NVQ qualification in our fine-dining team but lacked any ambition and decided life would be easier if she returned to her old job at a pub, where food was just heated in a microwave. And I sacked one employee for phoning in sick, then posting pictures of herself at a social event on the same day on Facebook.

Schools must take part of the blame. They teach subjects such as media studies, which give them false hopes about the type of jobs they can secure. There is a limit to the number of people who can work on The X Factor.

The tragedy is that so many youngsters seem devoid of real-life experience. This is where parents are at fault. From what I have seen, many parents have the same disengaged, uncommitted and welfare-sodden attitudes as their children.

Among many, there seems to be an utter absence of any sense of responsibility, work ethic or pride in contributing to society.

I recently gave a talk to a careers night at a local college. The youngsters stood slouched, hands in pockets staring up at the ceiling, some of them whistling under their breath. Not a single parent present chastised them for such unacceptable disrespect to an adult who had given up their time to address them.

There are those, however, who will do anything to secure a job. I once interviewed a young man in Staffordshire. He had taken a ferry, train and bus from the Isle of Man to make the appointment. He was wearing a suit and tie.

I gave him a job as a waiter and he’s now an events manager for a university. You’ve probably guessed – he is foreign (having been born in Indonesia). One of the best employees I ever had was a young Turk who barely spoke any English. He was so keen that I gave him a backroom job.

After infuriating weeks when other British employees had called in sick or turned up late, I put the Turk on the frontline. He was polite and friendly, happily juggling the job with two afternoons of English classes each week. He now manages one of the bars in Dublin Airport.

Job opportunities are certainly here and I want to give them to young people in my local area, but I’ve hit a wall. In desperation this week, I asked friends in the catering industries in Spain, Morocco and Holland to recommend any staff.

The first step to raise standards in our home-grown young is to admit that, for many, unemployment has become a personal choice to avoid hard work – and not an inescapable trap.

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British parents rebel over lessons on sex for pupils aged four and plans to teach homosexuality to six-year-olds

A primary school is facing a parents’ revolt over the content of sex education classes for children as young as four. Up to 20 families are said to be prepared to withdraw youngsters from the lessons because of concerns they are being sexualised too soon with discussions about homosexuality, masturbation and orgasms.

Under the plans, those aged six could be taught about same-sex relationships and the difference between ‘good and bad touching’. Topics for ten-year-olds include orgasm and masturbation.

Grenoside Community Primary in Sheffield already offers sex education to pupils in the two oldest year groups, but is planning to extend it to the younger ones as well. Some parents have been shocked by details of the lessons revealed in consultation meetings.

Headmaster Colin Fleetwood insists the material is not explicit and is in line with national curriculum guidelines. But parents including Louise Leahy – who has four children aged five to ten at the 319-pupil school – are furious.

‘There is a great deal of material in there which children don’t need to know at such a young age,’ the 41-year-old said. ‘It’s almost like the lessons and videos shown are saying, “Put all your toys in the bin, now it’s time to grow up”.’

She said some of the vocabulary used for the first two year groups is inappropriate, and objected to a DVD for older children showing a man lying on top of a woman.

Videos about people touching themselves encourage children ‘to think in a sexual way’, she said, adding: ‘One governor told me her child needs to know this stuff because she watches Emmerdale and EastEnders, but mine don’t and I don’t want them to.’

Katie Burrell, 26, whose six-year-old son Redd is at the school, agreed, saying: ‘My boy still believes in Father Christmas, he doesn’t need to be told these things.

‘The lessons for six- and seven-year-olds are far too explicit. I think a lot of parents will take their children out of these classes. ‘I am by no means a prude, but some of this is beyond stupidity.’

Mr Fleetwood said governors will decide what can taught following the consultation. He added: ‘We want this to be a positive learning experience which will help our children make sensible and responsible decisions as they grow up.’

His view was echoed by Dr Sonia Sharp, executive director for children, young people and families at Sheffield City Council, who said the lessons are widely taught at other primary schools in the city.

More than a fifth of UK primaries offer sex education, the content of which is decided by governors. It is compulsory only at secondaries.

Labour planned to make the subject compulsory from age five. Yesterday, the Department for Education said it is reviewing the subject.

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Trendy Dukan diet slammed as ‘utterly ineffective and with no scientific basis’

A diet said to be followed by the Duchess of Cambridge’s mother Carole Middleton has been branded ‘confusing, rigid and ineffective’ by a leading health group.

Experts from the British Dietetic Association named the Dukan Diet the worst celebrity weight loss plan to follow and said it has ‘absolutely no solid science behind it at all’.

The Dukan – also reported to be followed by actress Jennifer Lopez and supermodel Gisele Bundchen – is a complicated four-phase diet that starts with a protein-only approach which promotes weight loss of around 7lb per week.

It topped the BDA’s annual list of the five worst celebrity diets to avoid in the New Year. It works on restricting foods, calories and portion control. However, the BDA says cutting out food groups is not advisable.

The BDA said: ‘This diet is so confusing, very rigid, full of very French foods that most Brits would run a mile from like rabbit and offal, and even Dr Dukan himself warns of the associated problems like lack of energy, constipation and bad breath.’

The BDA receives hundreds of calls every year on the subject of diets and analysed results to form a list of the most unreliable, difficult to follow or unhealthy diet plans.

Based on the volume of telephone calls and other contributing factors, the Dukan Diet topped a list of ‘dodgy’ celebrity diets to avoid in the New Year.

The Dukan Diet was followed in the list by the Alcorexia or Drunkorexia Diet, an undeniably unhealthy tecnhnique believed to be used by many top models and other celebrities to keep their weight low without sacrificing their heavy partying lifestyle.

It involves eating very little during the day or week – a very low calorie (VLC) diet – and then ‘saving’ all the calories not eaten to binge drink alcohol. However, the BDA reckons people must be ‘blind drunk’ to follow such a diet.

DUKAN DRAWBACKS

While weight loss can be quick, followers of the Dukan report difficulties. Here are the main cons.

1 Much of the diet prescribes solely protein for days on end. Followers complain this can get boring and as a result is difficult to adhere to.

2 Eating so much protein – around three to four times the normal amount – can put a strain on the kidneys. This can be more problematic for those with underlying kidney problems they may not have known about.

3 A lack of fibre can be a problem. An unbalanced diet short of fruit and vegetables and heavy in fish and meat can lead to constipation.

4 Lack of cereal-based foods can lead to deficiency of vitamin B.

5 Weight loss is difficult to maintain once the rigid programme has ended. The maintenance phase alone – six days of eating normally and one Dukan day of protein – is unlikely to keep the weight off for the average dieter, whose indulgence throughout the week will outweigh the benefits of the protein day.

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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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