Man with severe symptoms went to hospital but ended up being seen by a nurse only. Dies of brain infection six days later
I can’t help comparing this guy’s experience with mine recently. I had an apparent bacterial infection with gross symptoms but I went to a top Australian PRIVATE hospital where I was promptly seen by an infectious diseases specialist. I was immediately admitted and put on 6 hourly intravenous infusions of lincomycin — and was well again in 48 hours. And my hospitalization was fully paid for by my private health insurance. Similar treatment would have saved the life of the guy below. The Brits’ love of their NHS is a great folly
A man who was sent home from a walk-in clinic with only drops and ibuprofen to treat a chronic ear infection died from blood poisoning to the brain six days later.
Rikki Baker was sweating profusely, shielding his eyes from the daylight, vomiting and struggling to stay on his feet when his worried mother took him to hospital.
But the father-of-two was referred to a neighbouring walk-in centre where a nurse misdiagnosed an external ear infection and sent him home with ear drops and painkillers.
Mr Baker was actually suffering from an infection of the middle ear which spread and he died six days later of scepticaemia in the brain.
An inquest into Mr Baker’s death heard how his wife Alicia rang the on-call service Devon Doctors and NHS Direct several times in the days after he was seen at the centre – but was not advised to return to hospital.
The 31-year-old’s mother Jill told the hearing, in Exeter, Devon: ‘Rikki called me to say he was suffering from an earache. Over the next few days he had discharge pouring out of his ear and was in bed.
‘Alicia told me he had been sweating profusely, she had to go out so I stayed with him. I decided to take him to A&E, and he put on some jogging bottoms. ‘His t-shirt was wet through. I helped him down the stairs as he was having trouble walking.’
The inquest heard how Jill and partner Mike drove Rikki to the Accident and Emergency department at the Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital on July 24. They were directed to a neighbouring walk-in centre, where Rikki was repeatedly sick. A nurse prescribed ear drops and ibuprofen and Jill took him home to bed.
Jill added: ‘The following morning Alicia became concerned at his condition. We wanted to ring an ambulance but Rikki wouldn’t let us. He said he wanted to sleep. ‘He had been in bed for over a week and was barely eating. Later Alicia rang me and was hysterical, she said he was having some kind of seizure and we called an ambulance.’
Jill said the family had no idea they were being directed to a walk-in centre, assuming it was a hospital where a doctor would treat her son. She added: ‘If we hadn’t been to the walk-in centre and had seen a doctor I am sure the outcome would have been quite different. ‘If I had wanted to go to a walk-in centre I would have done.’
In a statement, Mr Baker’s wife Alicia told of her concern at the deterioration in his condition after leaving the walk-in centre.
He had not eaten in days, was delirious and was emitting a heavy discharge from his ear
Mrs Baker said her husband deteriorated rapidly until July 26 when she heard a loud crash from upstairs and found he had suffered a seizure and slumped against a wardrobe. He was rushed to hospital, where he died four days later after the infection had spread to his brain.
Nurse Rosalyn Franklin, who treated Rikki at the walk-in centre on July 24, told the inquest she misdiagnosed him with Otitis Externa rather than Otitis Media – a middle ear infection – which he had suffered through childhood. But she said both conditions would have been treated with ear drops.
Miss Franklin said: ‘I had a conversation with Rikki and he seemed coherent and maintained good eye contact. ‘I saw some discharge in his ear but not a lot. His pulse and blood pressure were normal, although he was sweating. He had a confident gait and no problem walking.’
Pathologist Dr Paul Newman gave the cause of death as 1a Cerebral Infarction due to 1b brain swelling due to 1c streptococcal septicaemia.
Speaking earlier this year, Alicia, who lives in Exeter with the couple’s two sons George, six, and Eddie, four, said: ‘Rikki’s death has left me heartbroken. We had been together for 14 years and we were totally devoted to each other.
‘He leaves behind two young sons who will grow up without their daddy as a result of this cruel illness, which took him away so tragically.’
I was left looking like a man by my horrific NHS tummy tuck
Helena Grace could barely believe her luck when she was told she could have a tummy tuck on the NHS. After losing nine stone in just a year, thanks to a gastric bypass (also on the NHS), the 36-year-old nanny from Chesham, Bucks, had been left with large amounts of unsightly loose skin around her abdomen.
Helena, who was once 21st 8lb, hoped the procedure – called an apronectomy or mini tummy tuck – would restore her self-confidence. Instead, the operation left her deformed, revolted and despairing every time she looked at her body.
‘I was so happy to finally lose weight but I was left with a lot of excess skin and it was making me miserable. So, at my yearly check-up, I asked my surgeon if anything could be done to correct it. He said he would refer me for a tummy tuck, which would get rid of the loose skin. I was really pleased when he said I could get the operation on the NHS.
‘I was referred to the Royal Free Hospital in North London and had an appointment with plastic surgeon Norbert Kang. He spent five minutes talking to me about the operation and left the rest up to his registrar [a junior doctor].
‘Mr Kang did manage to tell me about possible risks of the surgery. He said that I would lose my belly button but it was only another scar and that I’d already have a huge scar across my stomach anyway,’ says Helena, who lives with fiance Tim, 44, a painter and decorator.
‘I didn’t like the thought of not having a belly button. It’s something that you have from birth and very much a part of you – not just another scar. ‘But when a surgeon tells you that it’s a normal part of the operation, you put your trust in him. I went along with it because I didn’t know any better. ‘He also said that I may have flaps of skin at each hip, which he called “excessive dog ears”. I assumed that this too was normal and so I consented to the surgery. I had no idea it would turn out the way it did.’
Nothing he said prepared Helena for the horrific results of the operation in February 2009. ‘When I came round, Mr Kang told me that he’d removed nearly 7lb of excess skin and was pleased with the result.
‘When I took the bandages off, I didn’t know what to expect. ‘I had never seen the results of a tummy tuck before, so if anything, I was pleased that so much skin had been removed. I had a horizontal scar from hip to hip that measured over 12 inches long and cut straight across the middle of my stomach.
‘I had, as predicted, no belly button and large flaps of skin that hung over my hips. I also had a thick pouch of skin that sagged from the centre of my stomach over my pubic bone so, to put it delicately, I looked like a man. It was very embarrassing.’
Yet Mr Kang assured her that the state her body was left in was perfectly normal.
Helena was devastated. ‘People even asked me if I was going through a sex change because you could see a bulge through my clothes. I started to refuse invitations to go out – I hated the thought that people could see what a bad shape I was. My boyfriend at the time never mentioned it.
‘He knew how upset I was and was aware that it was not something he should talk about.’
After two years of suffering in silence, Helena decided to investigate corrective surgery – specifically tackling the pouch of flesh above her groin.
‘Mr Kang told me that he didn’t do that kind of operation. He said it would have to be done privately – and suggested the name of a surgeon, but after everything that had happened I decided I’d find my own doctor.’
She settled on cosmetic surgeon Mario Russo, who admits he was horrified by Helena’s post-operative body. ‘In all the years I’ve been practising I’ve never seen an abdomen like hers,’ he says. ‘The scar that should have been near her bikini line was high up above where her navel should be. The fact she had no belly button at all really shocked me.
‘Of course there is always a risk with this kind of surgery that you can lose a portion of the navel, but it was not acceptable that she’d been left in that state and I was really angry on her behalf.’
The corrective surgery by Mr Russo would normally have cost £15,000 – an amount Helena says she couldn’t afford. Instead, Mr Russo offered her the chance to appear in a television series that he was taking part in, which would mean she could have the surgery for free.
‘I was nervous but I didn’t feel like I had many other options,’ she says. ‘I felt so upset that the NHS surgeon seemed unconcerned by the cosmetic results of the operation. I was shocked by what Mr Russo had said but it was also something of a relief to have him confirm what I knew in my heart – that the way I looked wasn’t normal at all. I was absolutely gutted that I had been led to believe it was all OK.’
Helena underwent the five-hour corrective operation in June this year. Mr Russo says: ‘The previous procedure seemed to be very badly planned. When you perform surgery, you’re always taught that before you cut, you have to consider how you are going to close the wound. In Helena’s case, it seemed that the surgeon had cut without thinking it through.’
Mr Kang is a consultant plastic surgeon and honorary senior lecturer at University College, London. His research interests are listed as hand surgery and prosthetic reconstruction.
It is NHS policy not to allow individual surgeons to speak to the media about specific cases. However, the Royal Free Hospitals NHS Trust gave a statement saying: ‘We are sorry to learn that Ms Grace was unhappy with the results of her operation although she has not made a formal complaint.
‘She was advised that it might not be possible to preserve her navel and it was also emphasised that following surgery, she might be unhappy with the cosmetic appearance of her abdomen. ‘Ms Grace signed a consent form indicating that she understood this information and wished to proceed. Following substantial weight loss, people may be left with excess folds of skin in the abdominal area, which can cause skin infections.
‘In order to alleviate these problems, NHS patients may be offered an apronectomy. In contrast, an abdominoplasty operation is a cosmetic surgery procedure where the aim of the operation is to improve the aesthetic appearance of the abdomen, and this includes preserving the navel. The NHS does not routinely offer this operation.’
Helena simply says: ‘I didn’t have skin infections. I believed the operation would make me look better. Would he have left his wife or daughter in that state?’
There has been a huge rise in post-obesity surgery in the past decade, linked to the increasing numbers of patients undergoing gastric banding and bypass – about 14,000 of these operations were carried out last year. As the number of operations rises, so does the number of complaints.
‘Complaints are usually due to poor outcomes,’ says Victoria Hydon, an expert in medical negligence at Moore Blatch Resolve solicitors. ‘We have about 50 similar cases a year – split equally between the NHS and private sector – and usually the problem lies with a breakdown in communication with patient and surgeon.’
Meanwhile, Helena simply wants to get on with her life. ‘I wish that I’d never had the tummy tuck in the first place.’
High immigration could drive Britain’s population to 77million by 2035
Britain’s population could rise by a quarter to more than 77million in just 25 years if high levels of migration continue, according to official estimates released yesterday.
They projected a population of 77.7million by 2035 – nearly 16million more than now – if high immigration continues alongside rapidly rising birthrates and increased life expectancy.
It means that the country would have to find room for an additional 650,000 people – the population of a city the size of Glasgow – every year between now and 2035.
The estimates were released at a time of growing concern over fast-rising population levels and their impact on overcrowded England, which is already the most densely populated country in Europe.
The figures suggest that the 70million population mark – the level at which many believe stresses on housing, transport, education, health, power and water will become too great – could be hit far sooner than the current prediction of 2027.
The new projections were published by the Office for National Statistics.
Last month, the ONS put out ‘principal projections’, which said that the population was set to grow by just under 500,000 a year for the next 25 years, reaching 73.2million from the current 62.2million in 2035.
Yesterday it published ‘variant population projections’ which ‘are intended as plausible alternatives to the principal assumptions,’ it said. Based on the highest expected immigration, fertility and life expectancy levels, these put numbers in the country at 77,746,000 in 2035, and nearly 95million by 2060.
By that stage Britain would have overtaken Germany as the most populous country in Europe. If maintained over the following decades, that rate of population increase would mean numbers reaching nearly 137million in 100 years – more than doubling over a century. Over the past 100 years, the population has grown by around 50 per cent.
The higher projected increase depends heavily on rates of immigration remaining similar to those currently being recorded. In 2010 net migration – the number of people coming into the country to live minus the number emigrating – was 239,000. New figures released today may show even higher migration rates. However, the ONS said that if migration is curbed, the population will be much lower.
Yesterday’s analysis said that if net migration is reduced to zero, the population will never reach the 70million landmark.
With zero net migration, but fertility rates and life expectancy continuing to go up according to mainstream expectations, there will be 65,740,000 people in the country in 2035, and this will gradually fall to below 58million in 2110.
The Coalition has pledged to reduce net migration to below 100,000 a year – the levels seen in the 1990s – though some analysts suggest a level of 150,000 a year is manageable.
Sir Andrew Green, chairman of think-tank Migration Watch, said: ‘ONS data confirms the shocking fact that the UK population is projected to hit 80million by 2056, overtaking Germany in the process – even though we have far less space. We must get net migration down to below 40,000 to stabilise our population below 70million. Anyone who suggests that net migration of 150,000 will do has simply not looked at the facts.’
The Downing Street ‘e-petition’ demanding action to prevent the population reaching 70million has been signed by almost 125,000 people.
The campaign, organised by Migration Watch, passed the 100,000 mark in less than one week – meaning MPs can now ask for a backbench debate on what steps are needed to bring immigration under control.
British Liberal leader accuses banks of discriminating against their black customers
Must not mention the possibility that blacks are less economically competent or that recent arrivals may not have significant savings or a savings record
Nick Clegg will today accuse banks of discriminating against black and other ethnic minority customers.
In an explosive attack, the Deputy Prime Minister will point to evidence suggesting that firms owned by black people are four times more likely than those owned by whites to be turned down for loans.
Even if they they can get credit, black African, black Caribbean, Bangladeshi and Pakistani-owned firms have also been subject to higher interest rates than white and Indian-run enterprises, he will say.
Mr Clegg will make the claim in a wide-ranging speech on race equality, in which he will also highlight evidence of discrimination in the criminal justice system and sport. There are no black managers in the Premier League and just two in the top four divisions, though a quarter of players are black, he will say.
And there are 400 more young black British men in prison than young black students at the elite Russell Group of universities.
But it is his suggestion of discrimination by High Street banks that will prove most controversial.
Aides insisted, however, that he was not accusing them of institutional racism, and admitted current evidence was limited and that the reasons for ethnic minority customers having less access to credit were likely to be complex.
Mr Clegg will announce that he is asking race equalities minister Andrew Stunell to examine the ‘barriers preventing black and ethnic minority groups from accessing loans’, working with the Equalities and Human Rights Commission and the Government’s ethnic minority advisory group.
Giving the annual Scarman Lecture in Brixton, South London, the scene of race riots in 1981, Mr Clegg will attack Labour’s approach to race equality as ‘too narrow’. He will say: ‘They attempted to deliver equality solely through the state. The state has been used to hide the sins of the market – and the veil is now being lifted.’
Mr Clegg will say that no matter how many new laws are put on the statute book, or how much pressure is exerted on companies, what happens at home has a ‘huge influence’ on how children do.
He will say: ‘In any family, black, white, rich, poor, we need parents and relatives to support their children, helping with homework, keeping them in school.’
Mr Clegg, who will admit that he leads a party that is ‘still too male and too pale’, will say that among current business leaders, there are some ‘hugely important’ ethnic minority figures – but not enough.
‘Why is it that members of some of our ethnic communities want to start their own businesses, but their success doesn’t match their ambitions?’ he will ask. We know, for example, that 35 per cent of individuals from black African origin say they want to start a business, but only 6 per cent actually do.
‘Past evidence shows that firms owned by individuals of black African origin have been four times more likely than so-called “white firms” to be denied loans outright. And that Bangladeshi, Pakistani, black Caribbean and black African-owned businesses have been subject to higher interest rates than White and Indian-owned enterprises.
‘The reasons will be complicated: a mix of poorer education among ethnic minority groups, perhaps a lack of the right guidance, a lack of their own capital to invest. There may be an element of self-exclusion too.
‘But if we are serious about turning the UK into an island of entrepreneurs, we need to get to the bottom of this. Are our banks doing enough?
‘Britain’s banks, bailed out by the British people, have just as much responsibility as everyone else, arguably more responsibility, to help Britain build a strong and dynamic economy. Unleashing black and ethnic minority talent is their duty too.’
The research highlighted by Mr Clegg was published in the International Small Business Journal, and involved more than 3,000 British firms.
Lesley McLeod, of the British Bankers’ Association, said: ‘UK banks wish to support all our customers. We take racism very seriously and many already have diversity and inclusion policies, with trained staff in place to help. Bank mentors are already working with the Enterprise and Diversity Alliance.’
Nasty British bureaucracy again
Council workers have left a family distraught after stripping a war hero’s grave bare in a row over who owns the plot. Widow Judy Collins, 72, found decorations had been removed when she turned up to pay her respects. In place of her late husband Harry’s memorial was a mound of mud, she claimed. Judy, who has visited the grave every week for the last 23 years, even found the cross bearing his name had been taken away.
The council said it removed the items because its records showed the grave was ‘unpurchased’. They say they put up notices in the area saying graves at the cemetery not owned by relatives would be cleared away.
But the family of Mr Collins – who served as an army mechanic in the Second World War – insist they were never informed. And they claim his plot was paid for by the Co-operative Funeral Directors when he was buried at the cemetery on May 25, 1988.
Daughter June Collins said her mother was on one of her weekly visits to the grave when she found the items were ‘bagged up’ in council sacks and left in a shed. June said: ‘We have been looking after the grave and putting flowers on it every week without fail for 23 years. ‘My mum has been left very distressed by this. A wooden cross made by my sister Linda’s partner has been ruined.’
Miss Collins said the family met council officials and claim they were told there is no record of the grave plot being paid for. She said the authority told the family that notifications were placed on ‘unpaid’ graves and letters sent to families.
June, from Portsmouth, Hants, added: ‘We haven’t received anything from the council and there wasn’t a notice on my dad’s grave. It could have blown off. ‘The council said they have no record of mum owning the grave and have it listed as ‘common’, which means they can bury someone else on it.’
The council confirmed the plot is one of 2,756 listed as ‘unpurchased’ at Warblington Cemetery, near Havant, Hants, and said decorations recently started appearing on it.
A spokeswoman for Havant Borough Council said: ‘Prior to removing these items, we attached a sign to the area asking for those who had been visiting to make contact with us. ‘After the time had lapsed for the visitors to make contact, the decorations were carefully removed and stored in a safe place.’
Graham Lymn, head of operations for The Southern Co-operative End of Life Services, said it has offered to pay half of the cost for purchasing the plot. He said: ‘We, nor the council, have been able to find records going back to 1988. It’s difficult to say what may have happened nearly 25 years ago.’
Celtic fans: You’re not singing anymore
In what country was a 17-year-old recently arrested for singing an outlawed song? Iran? China? No, it was the UK.
Imagine the scene. A dawn raid. A vanload of police officers batter down a front door. A 17-year-old boy is dragged from his home and driven away. He is charged with a crime and appears in court. His lawyers apply for bail, but the court decides his crime is too serious for that. So he is taken to a prison cell and remanded in custody.
What was his crime? Terrorism? Rape? No, this 17-year-old was imprisoned for singing a song. Where did this take place? Iran? China? Saudi Arabia? No – it was in Glasgow, Scotland, where the 17-year-old had sung songs that are now deemed by the authorities to be criminal. The youth was charged with carrying out a ‘religiously aggravated’ breach of the peace and evading arrest.
Why haven’t you heard about this case? Why aren’t civil liberties groups tweeting like mad about this affront to freedom? Because the young man in question is a football fan. Even worse, he’s a fan of one of the ‘Old Firm’ teams (Celtic and Rangers), which are renowned for their historic rivalry, and the songs he sang were football ditties that aren’t everyone’s cup of tea. Draconian new laws are being pushed through the Scottish parliament to imprison fans for up to five years for singing sectarian or offensive songs at football games, or for posting offensive comments on the internet, and this 17-year-old fell foul of these proposed laws.
This is far from an isolated case. This young man is merely the latest victim of a new policy of intimidation directed at Celtic and Rangers supporters. Even before the new laws have officially been passed, there have been numerous arrests at or after football matches. Only last month, as I reported on spiked, Stephen Birrell, a Rangers fan, was jailed for eight months for expressing his hatred of Celtic fans on his Facebook page. In Scotland, sadly, what people say and write is now sufficient criteria for imprisoning them, as the centuries-old distinction between words and action is abolished.
In the absence of any criticism from civil liberties groups, it has fallen to fans themselves to take a stand against the proposed new laws. Despite being portrayed as ill-educated sectarian bigots, many Celtic fans have shown themselves to be intelligent and articulate defenders of free speech. A group called Celtic Fans Against Criminalisation has taken to the airwaves to argue against censorship and managed to mobilise 2,000 people for a public rally against the news laws in central Glasgow.
Even before the Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communication Act has been passed, the singing of songs has become a key target of heavy-handed policing. The Scottish police have persuaded UEFA to announce an investigation into ‘illicit chanting’ by Celtic fans at a home game against French side Rennes. Likewise, Rangers Football Club was recently fined £35,000 and their fans banned from their next European game for singing sectarian songs during a match against PSV Eindhoven. Not to be outdone, the Scottish Premier League has launched an official investigation into the singing of offensive songs by Celtic fans at a Hibs game that took place several weeks ago. Things have now reached such ludicrous levels that last Sunday’s Scottish newspaper reports on the Inverness Caledonian Thistle v Celtic game devoted more column inches to the songs sung by Celtic fans than to the teams’ performance on the pitch.
Why is something that has always been part of the Old Firm tradition – that is, the singing of Irish republican songs by Celtic fans and anti-IRA, loyalist songs by Rangers fans – suddenly been declared a massive problem? Of course, Irish rebel songs are not to everyone’s taste, but the irony is that – as memories of the Irish conflict fade – fewer fans tend to sing them anyway. Contrary to media reports, IRA songs are no longer a massive part of Celtic fans’ repertoire.
Nonetheless, to the extent that these songs, which clash against loyalist songs amongst Rangers fans, are still sung, they have been an accepted part of Old Firm games for decades. The idea that they are offending vast swathes of rival fans is a myth that is fast becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy, as more and more public figures line up to prove their anti-sectarian credentials by denouncing ‘hateful songs’. The Celtic game against Rennes that is now subject to a UEFA enquiry was actually a peaceful, good-natured match, at which some fans sang Irish rebel songs to no doubt bewildered French football fans. It is hard to imagine how that 17-year-old arrested for allegedly singing IRA songs, which he is said to have done at this Celtic/Rennes match, was breaching the peace of anyone.
The criminalisation and demonisation of Old Firm football fans by the massed ranks of the Scottish government, police and media is a serious problem. Far from reducing ‘sectarian conflict’ in Scottish football, the new censorious laws and the accompanying police campaign have led to a dramatic increase in tensions, with fans now encouraged to spy on each other, to take offence at every comment, and to report rival fans to the police.
In a very vicious cycle, the more rival fans are coaxed and cajoled into reporting offensive incidents, then the more arrests there are, and the more the authorities can cite such increases in arrests as a justification for tough new laws and sanctions. It is an open secret that over the past six months, police have been trawling Celtic Park for the remotest hint of a republican song being sung, so that they can arrest, prosecute and convict the person singing it in order to construct a PR image of mass religious hate crimes being committed. It is no coincidence that new and seemingly shocking arrest figures were released to the media in the week before a Scottish parliament vote on the proposed new laws.
The 17-year-old was finally released from prison after a successful campaign by Celtic Fans Against Criminalisation. But it is time that others, especially those who claim to support free speech, added their voices to the opposition to these tyrannical new laws. If we sit back and allow people to be imprisoned for saying (or singing) things that the state does not like, then we won’t be able to complain when the state decides to come after us.
Restore elitism to Britain’s schools!
Minister takes on education establishment in passionate rallying cry for a return to traditional teaching values
Michael Gove promised an ‘unashamedly elitist’ approach in state schools last night as he vowed to give today’s children the same opportunities as those previously enjoyed by grammar school pupils.
In an extraordinary speech, the Education Secretary vowed to allow the next generation to ‘transcend the circumstances of their birth’ by turning free schools and academies into the latter-day equivalent of grammars.
He said parents were yearning for their children to learn ‘rigorous’ intellectual subjects, for ordered classrooms with strict discipline, and for teachers who are ‘guardians of knowledge and figures of authority’.
Mr Gove insisted that the Government would end Labour’s ‘crude equation’ of traditional subjects with ‘so-called equivalent qualifications’.
‘Countries which award soft qualifications to students, which are not comparable to those in the most rigorous jurisdictions, will suffer just as surely as a country which issues money too promiscuously to pay its debts,’ he warned.
Speaking at Cambridge University, Mr Gove made a broader attack on the coarsening of public debate. He highlighted Tony Blair’s support for Deirdre Rachid in Coronation Street when the character went to jail as an example of ‘patronising’ political classes seeking public approval.
He also suggested he wanted to return responsibility for higher education from Vince Cable’s Business Department to his own, saying Labour had made a mistake by ‘subordinating education to purely economic ends’ when it transferred powers for university policy from the Education Department.
But it is his impassioned celebration of elitism in education that will cause most controversy. For decades, senior politicians have shied away from such language when discussing state schools for fear of upsetting the Left-leaning educational establishment.
There are 164 grammar schools in England, and Mr Gove said there were now 1,400 academies and free schools – a 700 per cent increase on the number created under Labour – which have been freed from local authority control.
‘But 1,400 is not enough,’ he said. ‘And to take reform to the next stage I want to enlist more unashamedly elitist institutions in helping to entrench independence and extend excellence in our state sector.
‘I want universities like Cambridge, and more of our great public schools, to run state schools, free of any Government interference, free to hire whoever they want, pay them whatever they want, teach whatever they want, and demand yet higher standards.’
Mr Gove said that the state would provide the money and set expectations, but leave the delivery of education and the management of day-to-day learning to ‘genuinely independent schools and chains of schools’.
He hailed moves pioneered by some academies to rank every child, every term, based on their performance subject by subject, a process he wants extended nationwide. In decades gone by, many schools used such systems to encourage competition among their pupils.
Mr Gove is also suggesting a return to ‘norm referencing’, which was used between 1963 and 1987 and meant only a fixed percentage of pupils could be awarded top grades.
But he said further, radical steps would be necessary, admitting: ‘We are still not asking enough of our education system, we are not being nearly ambitious enough for our young people.
‘Yes, children are working harder than ever, and yes, I believe young teachers entering the profession are better than ever before. ‘But it is not enough to compare ourselves with the recent past and assume that incremental progress from where we once were is enough. That lack of ambition would have appalled our Victorian ancestors. And it’s certainly not apparent in other nations.’
Mr Gove said the Coalition was reforming the national curriculum so that it focuses on traditional subjects, and reforming GCSEs and A-levels so they can stand comparison with the most rigorous exams in other countries.
He argued that while not all could inherit ‘good looks or great houses’, all of us are ‘heir to the amazing intellectual achievements of our ancestors’. ‘We can all marvel at the genius of Pythagoras, or Wagner, share in the brilliance of Shakespeare or Newton, delve deeper into the mysteries of human nature through Balzac or Pinker,’ he said.
‘I believe that denying any child access to that amazing legacy, that treasure-house of wonder, delight, stimulation and enchantment by failing to educate them to the utmost of their abilities is as great a crime as raiding their parents’ bank accounts – you are stealing from their rightful inheritance, condemning them to a future poorer than they deserve.
‘And I am unapologetic in arguing that all children have a right to the best. Yes, I am romantic in one sense, I suppose. I believe man is born with a thirst for free inquiry and is nearly everywhere held back by chains of low expectation.’
Mr Gove was educated at a state school in Aberdeen, later attending the independent Robert Gordon’s College, to which he won a scholarship. He went on to read English at Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford.
Britain’s Green ‘tax’ to rise every year… but don’t worry, ministers claim overall bills will be lower – because their policies will make you use less energy
Families will pay £280 a year in ‘green taxes’ by 2020 to fund the shift to wind, solar and nuclear power, ministers admitted yesterday. The huge cost faced by ordinary people will pay for the Government’s pledge to cut carbon emissions and be ‘the greenest ever’.
Households currently pay £89 a year on their bills for the green energy drive, but this will increase every year to reach £280 by 2020, according to the Government’s Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC).
The ‘taxes’ will provide almost £8billion a year towards the £200billion cost of vast wind farms, nuclear power stations, a new pylon network, and to put up solar panels.
But in a bizarre statement, energy and climate change secretary Chris Huhne told the House of Commons that his policies mean consumers will actually be better off. He said: ‘By 2020, we expect household bills to be 7 per cent – or £94 – lower than they would otherwise be without our policies. ‘Britain’s homes will be cheaper to heat and light than if we did nothing.’
His claim is based on a controversial assumption that families will make vast reductions in their electricity and gas bills by 2020 – wiping out the £280 in green taxes. It also assumes there will be a large uptake of government-backed schemes for insulation projects.
The revelation threatens to spark a revolt from consumers, who are suffering the biggest and longest squeeze on living standards in more than 60 years. In addition, Chancellor George Osborne is under pressure to over-rule Mr Huhne and halt the rush to green energy in a bid to protect British industry.
The fear is that manufacturers and other businesses will be saddled with huge levies on energy bills, pushing up costs and threatening their ability to sell goods around the world.
The details were revealed in the small print in DECC documents.
The current average annual energy bill is around £1,200. DECC said the figure would be £1,379 by 2020 without any government measures to drive a switch to green and nuclear power.
It claimed the figure would be £1,285 based on the impact of its green taxes and associated policies to cut household energy use and curb wholesale prices.
However, a DECC source admitted this lower figure would be possible only if households slashed electricity use by a third (from 4.5 to 3 megawatt hours a year) and gas by 6 per cent.
The Government has a target of providing 20 per cent of the UK’s electricity from renewable sources by 2020. Despite the £280 price tag of government policies, Mr Huhne insisted rising fossil fuel prices rather than green taxes were to blame for higher energy bills.
He said: ‘I want to insulate Britain’s homes not just from the cold weather, but also from the chill winds of global fossil fuel prices. It’s these that are pushing up consumer energy prices.
‘We will secure our energy at the lowest cost: in the short term by promoting competition; in the medium term by insulating our homes and in the long term by steering us away from excessive reliance on fossil fuels and on to clean, green and secure energy.’
But Dr Benny Peiser, of the Global Warming Foundation, said Mr Huhne’s reassurances were ‘political spin’. ‘All analysis by City banks and others make clear that current government policy will lead to big increases in energy bills,’ he said. ‘The energy-use reductions being assumed by the Government to justify the claim that bills will fall are not based on any sound economic facts. They are pure guesswork.’
Government policy is based on an assumption that gas prices will continue to rise, but Dr Peiser said the price could fall. He said: ‘Prices are likely to come down very significantly, perhaps by 30 to 40 per cent if the UK Government gives the green light to shale gas exploration. The UK is sitting on a gold mine of shale gas.’
Energy industry expert Joe Malinowski, of TheEnergyShop.com, said he was ‘deeply sceptical’ about Mr Huhne’s claims of lower bills.
The CBI is particularly fearful of the impact of green taxes. Chief policy director Katja Hall said: ‘Energy intensive industries underpin the UK’s manufacturing sector, making products as diverse as the steel and chemicals needed for wind turbines and low-rolling resistance tyres. ‘The Government is in serious danger of throwing out the baby with the bathwater if it continues to pile new costs on to industries.’
The Government plans to spend £11billion installing smart meters in every property, saying that once people see how much energy they use, they will make cutbacks.
Ministers say energy use will also be reduced by the so-called Green Deal, which will allow people to install double-glazing and loft insulation at no upfront cost. But a spokesman for consumer group Which? said: ‘If take-up is lower than expected, energy bills will be pushed up even further.’
Are high-achieving parents who met at work behind rise in autistic children?
I think Prof Cohen is on the right track here. For me the key to autism is the mundane fact that autistic people tend to take large hat sizes! That supports the theory that an overdeveloped cortex is the problem. And the cortex is the seat of intelligence so when you get two highly intelligent people together an overdeveloped cortex is an obvious possibility. I married a smart working-class girl so my son is both very bright and very social
Engineers, scientists and computer programmers who meet their partners at work may be fuelling an increase in cases of autism.
Researchers at Cambridge University are working on the first ‘clear test’ of whether the occupation and university choices of high-achieving parents affect the chances of their child developing the condition.
Professor Simon Baron-Cohen, director of the university’s Autism Research Centre, said there are currently several clues that parents who work in the fields of maths, science and engineering might have a higher risk of having an autistic child.
His team is recruiting parents who are graduates to take part in a survey about their children’s development to test the theory.
Autism, which affects one in every 100 people, inhibits the ability to communicate, recognise emotions and socialise, and can take a mild or severe form.
Experts are becoming increasingly concerned that the trend in recent years for couples to meet at work – as women increasingly take highly-qualified jobs in technical fields once dominated by men – may be behind the tripling in the number of cases since the 1960s.
In California’s Silicon Valley, where there are high rates of partnership between engineers, physicists and mathematicians working in software companies, cases of autism have rocketed.
Previous studies have suggested that the condition is more prevalent among people who are ‘systemisers’ – those who do jobs relating to systems and how they work, such as computer programmes or machines.
One study in 2001 showed mathematicians have higher rates of autism than those in other jobs, and another in 1997 showed that children and grandchildren of engineers were more likely to be on the autistic spectrum.
Both mothers and fathers of children with autism have been shown to display excellent attention to detail in tests.
People who ‘systemise’ are often obsessed with making sense of complex topics, and can achieve great things, but have difficulty empathising with people.
They can also apply their minds to other careers including music and art. Professor Baron-Cohen has said that being a systemiser may be a symptom of an ‘extreme male brain’ due to high levels of testosterone.
His new study will examine whether two ‘strong systemisers’ have a higher chance of producing autistic children by asking parents to answer questions about their degrees and occupations.
Professor Baron-Cohen said: ‘A clear test of the hypothesis will enable us to test if couples who are both strong systemisers, for example those who studied and worked in STEM subjects [science, technology, engineering and maths] and other fields related to systemising, are more likely to have a child with an autism spectrum diagnosis than couples where only one is a strong systemiser, or where neither is.’
Anyone who is a graduate and a parent of a child older than 18 months can take part, even if their partner is not a graduate.
There is no specific known cause for autism. It has genetic factors, but also environmental ones including increased prevalence in premature babies.
A few extra tablets can cause cumulative paracetamol overdose
There is a strange fashion for treating paracetamol (acetaminophen; Tylenol) as “safe”. It has long been evident that it is anything but. So it is good to see caution being advised. A popular syrup for sick children in England — Calpol — contains it so parents should be particularly careful with it
Taking just a few extra paracetamol tablets a day over time could lead to a dangerous overdose and even death, a new study suggests.
Paracetamol overdoses are the leading cause of acute liver failure in Britain, usually occurring when patients take a vast number of tablets all at once.
But doctors are concerned that patients who take just slightly too many pills on a regular basis could be at even greater risk because their problem is harder to spot.
People who arrive at hospital having taken a single overdose can often be saved because blood tests reveal instantly how much of the drug is in their system, enabling doctors to act fast to save their liver.
But those who innocently exceed the recommended daily dose of eight 500mg tablets on a regular basis to cope with chronic pain may simply report to hospital feeling unwell, and not mention how many pills they have been taking.
Despite having similar levels of liver damage, blood tests might only show small amounts of paracetamol in their system meaning doctors may not spot the life-threatening problem, experts said.
Research published in the British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology showed that although ingesting less of the drug overall, people taking “staggered overdoses” were about a third more likely to die.
They also had a greater chance of liver and brain problems, and were more likely to need kidney dialysis or assistance with breathing, especially if they had waited at least a day before going to hospital.
Dr Kenneth Simpson of Edinburgh University, who led the study, said: “They haven’t taken the sort of single-moment, one-off massive overdoses taken by people who try to commit suicide, but over time the damage builds up, and the effect can be fatal.
“The problem is that some people were taking regular paracetamol and not appreciating that they should stick to 4g in a day. “They were sometimes taking two preparations, both of which contained paracetamol, such as regular paracetamol as well as headache tablets.”
Researchers studied 663 patients admitted to the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh for severe, paracetamol-induced liver injury and found that a quarter had taken staggered overdoses – meaning two or more doses, more than eight hours apart adding up to an amount above the daily limit.
The average staggered overdose was 48 tablets – slightly lower than the average one-off overdose of 54 tablets – but the staggered doses could have been taken over a period of up to a week.
In some cases patients had taken two large doses within a 24-hour period but in others they had just two or three extra pills a day over the course of four or five days, Dr Simpson explained.
While one third of people taking staggered overdoses had been attempting suicide, about half had simply been self-medicating for conditions like joint and muscular pains or toothache, he added.
The study also showed that patients taking staggered overdoses were older, with an average age of 39, and more likely to have been abusing alcohol.
Dr Neil Kitteringham, from the University of Liverpool’s MRC Centre for Drug Safety Science, said: “Paracetamol overdose is a significant burden to the NHS. “This large study from Edinburgh shows that unintentional overdosing with paracetamol may have more serious consequences than a single overdose taken with suicidal intent.”