Doctors from the EU to face language tests following landmark ruling
Britain has won the right to test foreign doctors and nurses on their ability to speak English following a landmark ruling from Brussels.
There is mounting concern that patients are being put in danger by a ban that prevents watchdogs from checking the language skills of European doctors and nurses.
This was triggered by the death of 70-year-old David Gray in 2008 at the hands of an incompetent German GP.
Dr Daniel Ubani gave him a lethal overdose of morphine on his first shift. Ubani had been allowed to cover an out of hours shift despite having a poor grasp of English and unacceptable medical standards.
At present neither the General Medical Council, the doctors’ regulator, nor the Nursing and Midwifery Council, the equivalent body for nurses, is allowed to carry out language tests on workers flying in from the continent as it is deemed to infringe the EU’s ‘freedom of movement’ laws.
But proposals from the European Commission yesterday paved the way for such checks to be carried out. For the first time the EC said that the ‘checking of language knowledge’ can be carried out for the ‘protection of patients’.
In addition, EU member states will have a duty to alert other countries when a doctor or nurse is struck off so they cannot simply move abroad and carry on working. The proposals will have to be agreed by all EU members before they are made into law and even then it may take several years for the GMC and the NMC to bring in the tests.
Nonetheless, the ruling has been hailed as a major step forward by leading healthcare workers and the relatives of patients who have died as a result of the current lax regime.
The GP son of Mr Gray, Stuart Gray, said: ‘If the GMC is going to be able to check the language of doctors at registration that is a major step forward for the safety of patients.
But what we push for next is for them all to undergo checks on their clinical competence. My father was killed by a doctor who was found to be clinically incompetent.’
Dr Peter Carter, General Secretary of the Royal College of Nursing said: ‘The ability to communicate clearly with patients is an essential part of good nursing care.’
Earlier this year Health Secretary Andrew Lansley announced new rules that would ensure hospitals had a ‘duty’ to language test EU doctors. But at the time there was concern that not all trusts would do this – and the rules did not include any provision for nurses.
The current EU legislation bans national tests carried out by the GMC or NMC but it does not prohibit hospitals or primary care trusts performing checks on individuals before employing them.
Under Mr Lansley’s plan, each hospital would employ a ‘responsible officer’ whose job would be to ensure all foreign doctors were tested on English before being allowed to work.
Under these new proposals the GMC and the NMC will be allowed to carry out national tests before doctors and nurses can even be registered. Unless they are registered they cannot even apply for a job.
There are thought to be thousands of European doctors and nurses working in hospitals and surgeries who have never been given language checks.
Figures show that there are some 21,000 doctors on the GMC register who gained their qualifications in EU countries.
Although the Government has urged hospitals and primary care trusts to carry out their own checks on staff before employing them in the absence of a national test, many do not.
Couple win IVF funding battle with NHS
A couple have won a rare victory over a health authority’s strict rules on infertility treatment, in a decision that could give hope to other would-be parents.
Donna and Dean Marshall were told by NHS managers in Portsmouth that they were not eligible to access state-funded IVF, and so would have to turn to private providers which can charge as much as £8,000 per attempt.
The couple, who had been trying for a baby for three years, were told they did not meet the local criteria of being “childless”, because Mr Marshall had a child from a previous relationship even though this child lived 200 miles away with his former wife.
Mrs Marshall was also slightly over the local age limit of 30 to 34, even though national guidelines state that treatment should be funded for women aged between 23 and 39.
They became just one of thousands of couples denied the chance to start a baby because of increasingly tough restrictions on IVF funding by NHS bodies. Although national guidance states that women should be given three cycles of infertility treatment, only one in four Primary Care Trusts now provides this.
However the Marshalls contacted their local MP, Penny Mordaunt, who put them in touch with Louisa Ghevaert, a lawyer who specialises in fertility cases. With her help they made a series of appeals through a process known as an Individual Funding Request, and their infertility treatment will now be funded by Portsmouth PCT.
Their victory, while not binding on other health bodies, could give hope to many more people, with infertility estimated to affect one in seven couples in Britain.
Mr Marshall, 41, and Mrs Marshall, 36, said: “We were devastated when we were told we would not be eligible for IVF funding on the NHS because of his child from a previous relationship. “We were told to pay privately for IVF treatment or keep trying for a baby naturally. We do not have a child together as a couple (despite having regular contact with his child from his first marriage) and it felt terribly unfair and put a huge strain on us.
“It is bad enough when you are struggling to conceive without being told you will not be offered IVF funding on the NHS and you have the added worry and burden of having to pay privately for treatment. “We were in a state of shock when Louisa told us we had won our appeal and it will take a while for this to sink in.”
Ms Ghevaert, a partner at Porter Dodson solicitors, said: “There needs to be routine implementation of the Nice guidance across the board. There also needs to be greater recognition and understanding of infertility, which blights too many people’s lives and better support for people struggling to have a family and those needing to undergo IVF.
“It is unfair to deny a childless woman access to IVF funding on the NHS if her partner has a child from a previous relationship. This actively discriminates against women and denies them the opportunity to bear their own children and become mothers.
“By introducing such stringent age restrictions, it denies younger women access to treatment who have three years of proven infertility when they will have a better chance of conceiving at a younger age. Equally, it restricts access to treatment by women who do not actively try for a baby until later in life and who struggle to achieve three years of proven infertility.”
Portsmouth PCT said it could not discuss invididual cases but added that it considers “exceptional cases” where refusing funding may relieve psychological distress.
‘The state ceased to exist’: Damning verdict on lazy British police during summer riots
Rioting spread across Britain during the summer because police ‘lost control of the streets’, a devastating report by MPs says today. The home affairs select committee accuses police of failing to appreciate the ‘magnitude’ of the task they faced.
The committee’s chairman, Keith Vaz, said that some parts of the country ‘the state effectively ceased to exist – sometimes for hours at a time.’ He adds: ‘This is an utterly unacceptable situation and should never occur again.’
Groups on the Left have attempted to find other explanations for the riots, which broke out in Tottenham, north London, on August 6, following the fatal shooting by police of Mark Duggan. They then spread to other parts of the capital and other English cities, including Birmingham, Liverpool, Nottingham, Manchester and Salford – leaving five people dead.
A joint report by the Guardian and London School of Economics claimed that deep-seated anger and frustration towards the police was a significant factor behind the riots, with officers’ incivility a major concern. Political, social and economic grievances contributed to the unrest, the report said.
But the MPs lay the blame squarely at the police’s door. In terms of motives, the MPs say there is no ‘clear element of protest or clear political objectives’.
They said the perception that police had lost control of the streets was the most important reason why the violence and looting spread. Mr Vaz said: ‘Individual police officers acted with great bravery, and we commend them for their actions.
‘However, in London and other areas, in contrast with the effectiveness of police responses in some towns and cities, there was a failure of police tactics. ‘This situation might have been avoided had police appreciated the magnitude of the task.’
The committee’s report found the operation to police the disorder in many towns and cities, and especially in London, was flawed. Forces were not quick enough in flooding the streets with officers, there was no system to give businesses in areas affected by the riots early and consistent advice on what to do.
The report says: ‘What ultimately worked in quelling the disorder was increasing the number of police officers on the street. ‘If numbers could have been increased more rapidly, it is possible that some of the disturbances could have been avoided.
‘We regret that this did not happen and, with the benefit of hindsight, we regard the operation to police the disorder in many towns and cities, and particularly in London, as flawed.’ In the future, a ‘strong police presence should also have a deterrent effect on those opportunists considering joining in the disorder’, the report said. It added: ‘The single most important reason why the disorder spread was the perception, relayed by television as well as new social media, that in some areas the police had lost control of the streets.’
The committee’s report said the specific causes behind the riots were still unknown. The MPs say: ‘It has been clear from the start that the death of Mark Duggan acted as a trigger. It is also clear that there was a great deal of ‘copycat’ activity. But the clarity ends there. ‘Even in Tottenham, it is not clear that the circumstances surrounding the death of Mark Duggan were the only influences at play. ‘In other locations, the link to the original trigger is even more tenuous and provides no explanation for what went on.
‘Unlike some events in the past, including the riots in the 1980s, there does not seem to be any clear narrative, nor a clear element of protest or clear political objectives.
‘There may also have been some engagement by gangs, but in general this seems to have been opportunistic rather than organised and, on this occasion, appears not to have been a significant cause of the rioting and looting.
‘Many people seem to have been drawn into criminal activity almost on the basis of joining in a big party and without any sense of the seriousness of the acts they were undertaking.’
The MPs call for the Government to speed up the process of reimbursing people for damages and to review whether the £15 victim’s surcharge should be increased for future riots.
Last week, Home Secretary Theresa May said most rioters were hardened criminals driven by a desire for ‘instant gratification’.
Persecuting the innocent is what the British police do best
Teenagers who found girl, 5, sleeping in abandoned stolen car are arrested THEMSELVES when they call police
Two teenagers who spotted a five-year-old girl sleeping in a stolen car have told how they were arrested for ‘doing the right thing’ when they called police.
Tyler Thompson and Connor Roderick were held in custody for four hours and had their DNA and fingerprints taken. Their clothes were also kept by police following the incident in St Helen Auckland, near Bishop Auckland, County Durham.
Now Tyler,16, and 18-year-old Connor plan to submit a complaint to the authorities about their treatment.
The teenagers were on their way to a shop to buy milk at about 10.15pm nine days ago when they found the abandoned red Skoda Fabia with its engine running. It had been stolen from outside the Royal Chef Chinese takeaway in nearby Manor Road.
The driver had left his keys in the ignition while he went in to place an order and three youths were spotted driving the car away shortly after 10pm.
The friends recognised the car and while Connor ran to find the owner, Tyler spotted the young girl on the back seat and guarded the vehicle.
Connor then brought the police and the girl’s father to the car where officers arrested them.
‘We couldn’t believe what was happening,’ said Tyler. ‘We hadn’t done anything wrong. We thought we were doing the right thing but the police just didn’t believe us. We were gutted. ‘If we had left that car, I never would have been able to forgive myself if something had happened to that girl.’ Both were held until 3am when they were released without charge.
Tyler, who has taken part in police projects as a member of Bishop Auckland Theatre Hooligans drama group, added: ‘We were kept in a cell for doing something good. We felt like criminals.’
The best friends, who have never been in trouble with the police, said they would now think twice before doing a good turn for fear of getting into trouble.
‘We have had strangers coming up in the street asking us why we did it,’ said Connor. ‘Everyone in the village has been talking about it. It has been horrible.’
A Durham Police spokesman said: ‘Police arrested a man and a youth at the scene as they matched a description given to police. They were later released without charge. ‘The suspects were dealt with as quickly as procedures allow while ensuring that the matter was thoroughly investigated. ‘Two other youths have been arrested in connection with this incident and bailed pending further inquiries.’ [No hint of an apology for their woefully bad judgment]
Elderly British woman penalized for thrift
There’s clearly some rules that need changing here
A frugal spinster who saved more than £20,000 out of her benefits has been left penniless because she did not tell officials about her nest egg. Pauline Ford, aged 58, lived in a rusty mobile home, never went out, smoked or drank, and only spent the bare minimum she needed to feed herself and her 15-year-old dog.
She wanted to build up her savings for her old age but fell foul of the law by failing to declare her assets when she applied for means tested benefits.
Ford’s miserly lifestyle meant she saved around £2,000 a year and grew so large they affected her eligibility for council tax and housing benefits.
There would have been no problem if she had spent all the money but now she has been forced to repay more than she saved and has been left with no savings at all.
Ford, of Valley Walk, Plymouth, had admitted three counts of benefit fraud and was jailed for four months, suspended for two years by Recorder Mr Jeremy Wright at Plymouth Crown Court. He made no order for costs or compensation after hearing she now has no savings left after repaying £28,000.
Miss Jo Martin, prosecuting, said until 2005, Ford received incapacity benefit and disabled living allowance, neither of which were means-tested and council tax benefits, which were.
By 2005 her savings had grown to £15,000 which meant she should have declared them when she continued claiming the housing and council tax benefits. In 2008, she applied for income support, which is also means-tested, without revealing she had just invested £21,000 in a Nationwide fixed bond.
Plymouth City Council carried out a ‘Midas’ check which revealed her savings, and in 2010, Miss Ford was interviewed by the council and Department of Work and Pensions investigators.
She admitted she had hoarded the money and should have told the authorities about it. Miss Martin said the total overpayment of £28,205.76 had all since been repaid, and Ford was now back living on benefits. She said that claimants were entitled to hold savings of £3,000 to £16,000, but received lower benefits on a sliding scale.
Mother whom arrogant Scottish social workers branded ‘too dumb’ to have children gives birth to second baby
Eugenics is supposed to have died with Hitler but not in Scotland apparently. But Hitler was a socialist and Scots in Scotland are instinctive socialists so I guess it figures
Two years ago she was written off by social workers as ‘too dumb’ to marry, let alone become a mother. But last night Kerry McDougall – who fled the UK to stop social workers taking her first son into care – was celebrating the birth of her second child in Waterford, Ireland.
The 19-year-old, along with husband Mark, 28, son Ben and new baby boy Lochlan are now looking forward to a family Christmas together.
Mrs McDougall, who has mild learning difficulties, said: ‘Having another baby is a dream come true. Lochlan is beautiful and Ben adores him. ‘We both feel so lucky to have two gorgeous little boys.’
The birth of Lochlan marks the end of a two-year battle to stay together as a family. Mrs McDougall was a baby when her parents handed her over to her grandmother and her care was overseen by social services. When she met Mark, she moved in with him and when she became pregnant they decided to marry.
But their nightmare began when in an unprecedented step social workers in their home town of Dunfermline, Fife, dramatically halted their church wedding – claiming she was not intelligent enough to understand the vows.
Mr McDougall, an artist, said: ‘Everything was booked – the dress, the reception, food and flowers but we had to cancel the lot and call off all the guests. It was devastating.’ Worse was to come when social workers said they believed Kerry wasn’t bright enough to be a mother and warned their baby could be taken into care at birth.
In the middle of the night, the couple fled to southern Ireland, where they hoped social workers would be more sympathetic to their plight. They were put up by friends and in January 2010, she gave birth to 7lb 3oz Ben. But Irish authorities had discovered through her medical records that social workers had concerns over Kerry.
Three days after Ben was born and she was breastfeeding him on the maternity ward, social services confronted them – and took Ben into foster care. After a nine-month investigation the couple – who were allowed to visit Ben in foster care – finally brought him home for good.
They then married after discovering the legal wedding ban did not apply in Ireland. Some of the 30 guests were officials involved in their case.
On Mother’s Day this year, Mrs McDougall discovered she was pregnant again and 5lb 3oz Lochlan was born four weeks ago. Mark said: ‘Our family are still in the UK and although they visit regularly, we do miss just being able to pop in to see them.
‘As far as we are aware, the situation hasn’t changed with them and if we went back, ultimately the risk remains that both our sons could be taken into care.’
His wife added: ‘With a lively toddler – who talks constantly – and a new baby, life is busy. But I love being a mum and couldn’t be happier.’
‘You’re bordering on obese’: What active 7-year-old girl was told by British busybodies
She is a budding gymnast and table tennis player who often comes home with bruises on her knees after rough-and-tumble games with her friends. So Libbie Boardman’s parents were shocked to be told that their active, healthy seven-year-old had been classified as ‘borderline obese’.
She and her classmates had their height and weight measured by NHS staff to calculate their body mass index as part of a scheme aimed at cracking down on childhood obesity. But several parents have reacted with outrage at the results, saying they are clearly misleading – and could result in their children developing eating disorders.
Libbie’s father, Paul Boardman, said: ‘I do not know how they can be saying that she is overweight. ‘You just have to look at her to think, “Where the heck have they got that from?”’
For adults, BMI is measured by dividing weight in kilograms by height in metres squared. The calculation for children begins the same way, but the result is then compared with those of others of the same age and sex to calculate the child’s ‘centile’ – or position relative to others on a scale of one to 100.
Libbie, who is 4ft 2in tall and weighs 5st 5lb, was described as being at the top end of the overweight category by NHS Bolton, bordering on clinically obese. She has a BMI ‘centile’ of 97 – meaning she is in the top 3 per cent. Between 91 and 97 is classed as overweight, and 98 and above is clinically obese.
Her parents were sent the results in a letter, along with a booklet of healthy eating tips.
They took her to her GP, who said the numbers were right but that there was nothing to worry about as Libbie was perfectly healthy.
Mr Boardman, 43, said: ‘She has been saying things like she does not want any tea. ‘But I said “Don’t be silly”. She doesn’t have junk food, just the odd treat now and again. She is active and is what I would describe as a rough-and-tumble type.’
Critics have pointed out that crude interpretation of BMI figures ignores differences in build.
Mr Boardman, a window cleaner who also has a 13-year-old daughter, Sophie, with his office manager wife Louise, said the scheme should be scrapped. ‘If they are going to do it, they need to tailor it to the individual,’ said Mr Boardman, of Farnworth, Greater Manchester.
There are understood to have been at least four complaints about the scheme from parents of children at Highfield Primary School in Farnworth, which Libbie attends.
The initiative was launched in a bid to tackle the high obesity rate in parts of Bolton, where one in three youngsters are overweight when they reach the age of 11.
NHS Bolton said BMI had been found to be the most appropriate way to judge a child’s weight and took into account their age and sex. But a spokesman admitted: ‘A few children might show up as underweight or overweight when they are actually perfectly healthy.’
The school where pupils have etiquette lessons: British government school hires expert to teach students how to get a job
A state school is hiring an etiquette expert to teach teenage pupils how to act and dress to get a job. The day-long course covers posture, how to ‘dress for success’, speaking clearly and using the right cutlery.
There is even guidance on the correct way to eat asparagus, spaghetti and the tricky consumption of shell prawns.
The 16 to 18-year-olds at the co-educational Bishop Heber School, in Malpas, Cheshire, will also learn how to enter a room and greet people properly.
Headteacher David Curry said. ‘On paper everyone is the same – the only discerning difference is what an interviewer sees in person. That ability to carry yourself is hugely important. “The children don’t find it patronising, they are genuinely eager to take these skills on.”
Mr Curry asked the company Public Image to organise the course – due to be held next month – after a talk on the importance of social skills from an outside speaker.
The pupils will be filmed doing role play exercises which they can then watch to see how they are coming across to employers.
Parents have been asked to pay towards the cost of the course at Bishop Heber. The school, which has over 1,000 pupils, has been rated as outstanding by Ofsted
Diana Mather, managing director of Public Image, said the training helps put state and privately educated pupils on a ‘level playing field’.
She told the Daily Telegraph: ‘Privately educated students and school boarders are given much more of this sort of training. ‘Whether it’s the debating society, school presentations or attending functions with people from older generations, they become more at ease communicating appropriately.
‘Women in particular need a bit of help judging what’s appropriate. If girls wear low-cut tops and short skirts to an interview then she’s got to expect some sort of reaction, after all we’re all human.’
Miss Mather, a former television presenter, already runs courses at private schools which include a talk on what is expected of young adults in the 21st century.
Susan Anderson, Confederation of British Industry director for education and skills, said the majority of schools fail to teach pupils what employers are looking for in the workplace. She said: ‘Competition for jobs is intense and unemployment remains high, so [schools] need to explain these skills better and make sure they embed them in teaching.’