Hundreds of patients have operations cancelled as hospital trust’s £4m new IT system fails

Hundreds of patients have had operations cancelled or been given appointments at non-existent clinics after the failure of a £3.9 million new computer system.

Major glitches in the system have forced doctors to send patients home without treatment because their notes could not be accessed. In other cases, patients were given the wrong appointments.

The system, Cerner Millennium, was introduced at North Bristol NHS Trust in December and was designed to replace all paper documents – including medical records – and cope with about 30,000 outpatient appointments a month.

But despite a year of preparation and training, within weeks of its launch staff have had to resort to paper records as they battle to clear the backlog.

Affected patients have been told they will be compensated, although the hospital has insisted no one has been harmed as a result of the problems, which are not expected to be completely resolved for a further two weeks.

The hospital’s director of IT, Martin Bell, said the problems were due to the implementation rather than the system itself. Managers have called for an independent review.

In an online post, one patient said: ‘I have been caught up with a “phantom appointment” with an “unknown” consultant offered by computer at 10 minutes past midnight!! Still waiting 6 weeks later, in pain, for another appointment.’

No one from North Bristol NHS Trust was available for comment. However, a statement on the trust’s website yesterday apologised to patients for the ‘disruption and frustration’, and offered reassurance that urgent referrals had been prioritised.

Simon Hill, spokesman for Cerner Millennium, said: ‘While we deeply regret the administrative disruption to staff and patients, we remain committed to supporting the trust in delivering safe, effective and high-quality care.’


‘Your rash is sunburn’: Mother told not to worry by doctor six times had to have double mastectomy

Getting the attention of an NHS doctor is an uphill battle — and getting a scan is like pulling teeth

On six separate consultations, doctors told Melanie O’Neill that the angry red patch across the top of her chest was ‘nothing to worry about’. It was sunburn, said one, and indeed it did look like this. Another doctor claimed it was down to a badly-fitting bra.

But Melanie knew something was wrong. The 37-year-old says: ‘I first noticed the patch in January last year – it spread over the top of my chest, over my breasts but not on them. It felt irritated and almost hard – a bit like the skin goes when you’re stung by something. ‘What was happening to me didn’t feel like a run-of-the-mill rash or allergy. You know your own body and I was convinced there was more to it.’

Melanie, who runs a hairdressing salon with her husband Carl, 38, was right to be concerned. She was suffering from inflammatory breast cancer (IBC), an aggressive disease that affects as many as 1,100 women out of the 45,000 diagnosed with breast cancer every year in Britain.

For five months the mother of two daughters, Lois, six, and Darcey, four, battled to convince her GPs she was ill. When even a specialist gave her the all-clear she admits: ‘I just felt so powerless. No one was really listening to me yet instinctively I knew I needed help.’

The symptoms of IBC, which can appear rapidly, include itchy, swollen or painful breasts. In some cases, skin on the chest can also appear pitted like the surface of an orange. Although Melanie had checked her breasts regularly for lumps, IBC usually forms in layers, not as a solid lump like most breast cancers, and therefore didn’t show up on ultrasound tests.

The redness is caused by cancer cells blocking the tiny channels that run through the breast. These channels are part of the lymphatic system, which helps the body fight off infections.

Melanie says: ‘Women are told to check their breasts and report anything abnormal. That’s exactly what I did and was told time and time again to go home. But we should be looking for any changes, not just lumps. GPs often think of breast cancer as a solid tumour but you don’t have to have a lump to have breast cancer.’

Many women with IBC are diagnosed late either because they ignore the symptoms or because doctors incorrectly diagnose the cancer as an infection, according to breast cancer surgeon Professor Kefah Mokbel of the London Breast Cancer Institute and St George’s Hospital in London.

He says: ‘Many doctors will wrongly diagnose mastitis, a common condition in new mothers where the breast becomes infected. I had a case where the patient had IBC for a year and the doctor had been treating her with antibiotics. My advice to women is they should ask to be referred to a specialist if their symptoms have not improved after two weeks.’

Women with these kinds of symptoms should be given both an ultrasound and an MRI scan – and if these show up negative, they should carry out a biopsy where cells are removed from the breast with a needle for testing. ‘Women who are pre-menopausal, Afro-Caribbean women and those with a body mass index above 30 are most at risk. Early diagnosis is vital. Look out for changes such as abnormal swelling. Most women with IBC won’t have a lump,’ says Prof Mokbel.

Weeks after being given the all-clear by the first specialist she saw, Melanie, who lives in Warrington, Cheshire, developed a dull ache in her left arm. Another GP suggested she take a painkiller. Melanie researched her symptoms on the internet, and IBC seemed to fit. Husband Carl urged her to go to A&E but again she was told she was imagining a problem. Crucially, the nurse failed to examine Melanie – when that would have revealed her breast was abnormal.

Only last May when she demanded to see another breast specialist – who ordered an X-ray and needle biopsy – was the truth revealed. Treatment involved chemotherapy, followed by surgery.

Prof Mokbel says: ‘The drugs will halt the progression of cancer so then doctors can carry out surgery to remove the breast and stop the spread of the disease. IBC is curable in 50 per cent of cases.’

In November, Melanie underwent a double mastectomy and lymph-node removal, followed by more chemotherapy to remove any traces of the cancer.

A few weeks before Christmas, she noticed another red patch appearing around one of her scars on her chest. A further biopsy confirmed the cancer had spread to lymph vessels in her skin.

In November, Melanie underwent a double mastectomy and lymph-node removal, followed by more chemotherapy to remove any traces of the cancer

She is set to undergo radiotherapy and further chemotherapy sessions and, despite doctors admitting a cure at this stage is unlikely, she remains positive.

‘This has happened to me partly because of the aggressive nature of my cancer and partly because of the late diagnosis,’ she says. ‘I urge any woman who has the symptoms I did, and has a gut instinct something serious is wrong, to persist until they get a cast-iron diagnosis.’

A spokesman for Warrington and Halton hospitals said: ‘We have an excellent breast service at the hospitals that provides a first-class screening and diagnostic service and aims to ensure that care is provided as quickly as possible when a positive diagnosis is made.

‘We have met Mrs O’Neill and are pleased that her treatment is progressing well. We will be responding in full to the concerns she has raised about her treatment and looking at the steps that we took at the hospitals and if anything could have been done differently.’


Hysteria and the moral battle to end welfare dependency in Britain

By Simon Heffer

This week’s row about welfare reform threw up several shocking facts. First, the £26,000-per-household cap on benefits that the Government seeks to impose is equivalent to a £35,000 pre–tax salary of someone in work.

Then there was the case of a parish priest who said he worked six days a week and earned £22,000 a year. Since he is in employment he does not qualify for any of the hand-outs (such as free public transport) given to some full-time welfare benefits claimants.

In a letter to a newspaper he rebuked the bishops of his own church who had voted in the Lords against the Government’s benefits cap, which would be set at £4,000 a year more than he earns.

To say that welfare is a perennially toxic subject is one of the great political understatements of our times. However unmerited some people’s financial support from the State is, the threat of its reduction or withdrawal always triggers hysteria from those unthinking elements on the Left — whether in the Labour Party, the Anglican Church or the BBC.

The truth is that, as a country, we have lost sight of the importance of every citizen striving to contribute to society, however modestly, as opposed to making a claim upon it.

As a result, perversely, those who won’t contribute are treated the same as those who do. This injustice means that they are given the right to live handsomely off the labour of the rest of us.

To sustain this grotesque state of affairs, which is an abnegation of society’s most fundamental values, would be unacceptable even in times of plenty. But in a time of economic crisis, it is simply outrageous.

Following this week’s Lords rebellion against the Coalition’s plans to cap the cost of benefit payments, the Mail has highlighted families living on small incomes who are determined to be self-reliant and to avoid becoming trapped in a cycle of welfare dependency.

Sadly, it has also been easy to find examples at the opposite end of the moral scale — people who are perfectly capable of work, but refuse to take or even look for it.

Indeed, earlier this month the media reported that some unemployed people were so idle that they couldn’t even bother to get out of bed in the morning to sign for their welfare benefits.

The fact that such behaviour is now tolerated without retribution is a shameful reflection of the attitudes of those who have governed this country over recent years.

Mercifully, there are influential figures such as Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith and former Archbishop of Canterbury Lord Carey who are determined to end this State-sponsored moral degeneracy.

This week, Lord Carey wrote an article for the Mail in which he said the scale of Britain’s public debt was the ‘greatest moral scandal’ facing the country and warned that the welfare system is rewarding ‘fecklessness and irresponsibility’.

He criticised the bishops who led the Lords rebellion, saying the senior churchmen were encouraging the culture of welfare dependency that led to ‘poverty of aspiration’. He said that they could lay no claim to the ‘moral high ground’.

Meanwhile, Mr Duncan Smith is wrestling to cut the £100 billion annual welfare bill. His initial proposals are modest, not because he lacks radicalism (for he understands exactly what must be done to wean Britain off dependency) but because his party’s Lib Dem coalition partners refuse to concede that the drastic reforms are necessary.

However, Mr Duncan Smith has two advantages that ought to help him carry through his proposals.

First, he has spent years studying the problems of poverty and he knows what he is talking about; what is more, the public trusts him because of that expertise.

Second, the dire economic state of the country means welfare reform is not being embarked upon purely as an ideological exercise. It is an urgent necessity because we have a crippling £1 trillion debt, caused by the last Labour administration, and the Government must make huge savings.

The public understands this and supports attempts to reduce the debt. The Tory Party, which is driving the reforms, is ahead in the opinion polls. This means there has never been a better time to break the culture that makes welfare dependency, for some people, a lifetime career.

Mr Duncan Smith deserves the unqualified support of all taxpayers in his attempts to start the process. The tragedy is that he appears to be fighting an almost lone battle in Westminster.

It is time his fellow Tories gave their public support to his reforms and highlighted the scandal of the way those who refuse to work (being given lavish welfare hand-outs) are treated in comparison with those who do.

Meanwhile, one has only to read the Left-wing media’s coverage of the debate about welfare to see that blackmail is being attempted to get reformers to halt their programme.

First, their opponents argue that any restriction on benefits given to the workshy will inevitably harm the claimants’ children. Also, they warn that some claimants may turn to crime if they lose their benefits.

The way to defeat such specious arguments is to make clear the distinction between the deserving and the undeserving poor. Although this is often considered to be a Victorian concept, it was, in fact, first properly defined in 1563, when magistrates were told to differentiate between various types of poor in their parishes.

The deserving were deemed to be those who wished to work but couldn’t find employment. A ‘poor rate’ was levied to raise money to provide them with clothes and food.

Also deemed to be deserving were those too old, young or ill to work. They would be supported in alms houses or orphanages, and children would be offered apprenticeships to ensure that their adult lives were not blighted by poverty.

On the other hand, the undeserving poor were those — such as sturdy beggars — who avoided work. A remedy was found in 1563 when it was agreed that these idlers should be whipped until they saw the error of their ways, or moved on to another parish.

This distinction between deserving and undeserving poor was enshrined in the Poor Law of 1601, which remained until it was revised in the 19th century.

Of course, today’s undeserving poor are no longer whipped. Instead, they are kept in idleness by a state welfare system that gives them little or no incentive to work. Their weekly benefit cheques relieve them of the necessity of begging. Their children, produced regardless of their parents’ ability to provide food and clothing, are used as human shields in the fight against any cuts in welfare.

Surely the Government can devise a proper system that ensures that widows, orphans, disabled and elderly receive the full compassion of the State, while those who live off taxpayers have their life of idleness halted.

There has often been talk of ‘workfare’, a scheme used successfully in America where benefits are paid in return for state-sponsored work. The main obstacle to such a system in Britain has been the trades unions, who feared work would be found at the expense of their members.

The truth is that there are plenty of socially useful and productive tasks that could be done as a condition of receiving benefits.

For some of these people, though, this may require a major change in attitude. For example, people such as the university graduate who recently claimed her human rights had been infringed because she’d been made to work for her jobless benefits as a shelf stacker in Poundland must be made to realise how lucky they are to have gainful employment.

As for the argument that children will come to harm because their parents might lose benefits, that is not true. They would not lose out financially. Their hand-outs would simply be replaced by payments from the workfare scheme. Neither would there be a rise in crime, for the same reason.

Politicians have talked for nearly 20 years, since the time when fellow Tory Peter Lilley did Mr Duncan Smith’s job in the mid-Nineties, of ending the something-for-nothing society.

Even if a few bishops support it, the rest of the country is fed up being taken for a ride. We cannot afford it, literally or morally. Now is the time to deliver on the promise.


Vilified for telling the truth: The Christian GP whose life was made hell after he questioned the legalise drugs campaign

Dr Hans-Christian Raabe is a man of gentle demeanour and firm principle who cares deeply about his patients in the deprived area of Manchester where he works as a GP. Indeed, he chose to serve a community where unemployment is high, drug problems endemic and gang warfare rife because he wanted to make a difference.

‘I wanted to care for people in areas of most need, so I opted to work in a disadvantaged community with a high prevalence of social problems,’ he says. ‘And at the root of many of these problems are drugs.’

‘Every day I see the devastation substance abuse causes to individuals, families and communities. I see huge numbers of patients whose lives — whether directly or indirectly — have been ruined by the misuse of drugs.’

As a result of this first-hand experience — and because he felt a public-spirited compulsion to help tackle a national crisis — Dr Raabe volunteered for an unpaid post on the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD).

However, he had barely taken up the three-year voluntary position as a Government adviser when a witch hunt against him began.

Disseminated by internet, the campaign swiftly gathered speed. Then the Home Office weighed in: in February 2011, Dr Raabe was dismissed before he had even had a chance to attend an ACMD meeting. He was given no right of appeal.

What happened? Had he committed a crime so heinous that no amount of self‑justification could exonerate him? Actually, he had not. Dr Raabe, 47, was merely guilty of holding unfashionably uncompromising anti-drugs views — namely that legalising drugs merely normalises their usage, and that we should instead try to create a drug-free society by focusing on drug prevention.

Incredibly, Dr Raabe was also criticised for being a Christian. He was stunned: ‘I was called a bigot, scum and a mad ba****d. I was accused of being a waste of space and of having no qualification to talk about substance abuse.

‘All I’d done was to offer a day or more of my time every week for three years to help improve the drug problem in the UK, and I was subjected to a vile stream of abuse and defamation. The Home Office caved in to pressure from the politically correct brigade. I believe it was spineless of them.

‘When they revoked my appointment I was not given a chance to refute any of the allegations against me. I began to feel as if I was living in a totalitarian regime — in Stalinist Russia or Ahmadinejad’s Iran — not in Britain in 2011.’

For months Dr Raabe, reeling from the shock of the onslaught, considered his position. And then he decided to fight back.

The German-born doctor has been granted permission for a judicial review against Home Secretary Theresa May, which is set to commence later this year, and is being represented by leading human rights lawyer James Dingemans QC.

He hopes to win back his committee post and, in so doing, stand up for Christians, who he believes are becoming increasingly marginalised and excluded from public office. ‘The attack on me was a confirmation that I was doing something right,’ he says. ‘The way I was treated strengthened my resolve to fight my corner.’

His determination was further bolstered this week when the Sentencing Council announced new rules under which heroin and cocaine dealers can be spared prison — serving community sentences instead. This week also saw Sir Richard Branson calling for the liberalisation of drugs laws, claiming three-quarters of young adults had tried cannabis.

The Virgin boss, who has admitted smoking the drug and using cocaine and ecstasy, said it was wrong to criminalise those with drug problems and argued that addicts should be given treatment, not sent to jail.

Dr Raabe fiercely contests this approach. ‘If you legalise drugs, you normalise their use,’ he says. ‘Do we really want to normalise the use of heroin, cocaine, ecstasy and all the synthetic drugs?

‘Those who suggest legalisation is the answer have not learnt from history. It has been tried before and failed disastrously. Sweden and Japan have had painful experiences with legal drugs and, as a result, they have chosen instead to focus on drug prevention. They now have very low rates of misuse.’

Such uncompromising views have earned Dr Raabe enemies, who, he believes, sought to dredge up reasons why he should be sacked from the ACMD.

From the maelstrom of accusations and insults whipped up when he was appointed to the council in January last year, another grievance against him emerged. His opponents exhumed an academic report he co‑authored in 2005, while he was living in Canada, linking homosexuality to paedophilia.

The report, a collaboration between several doctors, was written when the Canadian Parliament was debating whether or not to legalise same-sex marriage, to which Dr Raabe — while he is not against civil partnerships — is opposed.

‘The paper summarised scientific evidence, which was in the public domain, and it was one paragraph, mentioning homosexuality and paedophilia together, which — so the Home Office tells me — caused them “embarrassment”,’ says Dr Raabe.

The offending paragraph states: ‘While the majority of homosexuals are not involved in paedophilia, it is of grave concern that there are a disproportionately greater number of homosexuals among paedophiles.’

However, the Home Office also made essentially the same point in a document it published, which states: ‘Twenty to 33 per cent of child sexual abuse is homosexual in nature and about 10 per cent mixed.’

The irony of this is not lost on Dr Raabe. Even so, it was a Home Office civil servant who phoned him a couple of weeks after his ACMD appointment to question him about the report. ‘Three days later I received a letter from the Home Office saying it was “minded to reconsider” my appointment and asking for my response. I sent a detailed letter back and within two days my appointment was revoked.

‘I was told it was because I could potentially discriminate against gay people; something I have never done either in my professional or private life. I’m not anti-gay.’

There were other complaints against him. He had, it seems, compounded his ‘crime’ by holding firm opinions against legalising of drugs such as cannabis; views which set him at odds with former ACMD chairman Professor David Nutt, who believes that prohibition has failed and advocates a new approach based on teaching young people how to use prohibited drugs more safely.

Professor Nutt was sacked from the ACMD after claiming that ecstasy, LSD and cannabis were less dangerous than alcohol.

Dr Raabe, who has consistently opposed moves to reclassify cannabis from class B to C, holds the opposite view from Professor Nutt. He refuses to take the defeatist stance traditionally espoused by the ACMD — and echoed by the 30 celebrities who last year wrote an open letter to the Prime Minister asking him to consider decriminalising the possession of drugs — that the war against drugs is lost, and that children should be educated in the safest way to use them.

Instead, his aim is to try to create a drug-free society by teaching young people to say ‘no’. He is a member of an evangelical free church and his beliefs and opinions are in line with those of many of the Christian churches, which also seems to have raised hackles.

‘I take a very different view from the ones that have shaped the disastrously unsuccessful drugs policy in Britain,’ he says.

‘I’m a great fan of prevention, which is the approach used in Sweden, where the incidence of drug misuse is among the lowest in Europe. In contrast, Britain has among the highest rates of drug misuse, so current policies are patently not working.

Meanwhile, as an internet furore against Dr Raabe gathered pace, his own staff and patients — the people who use his surgery in the deprived Greater Manchester suburb of Partington and who know him best — rallied in support of him. ‘I’ve had not one negative comment, and many positive, encouraging messages,’ he says.

Meanwhile, the flurry of gratuitous insults from the legalise cannabis lobby continue. ‘It has upset me, but what worries me more is the fact that because I challenged the liberal Establishment, I was seen as a threat and had to be removed. ‘I was sacrificed on the altar of political correctness and have been discriminated against on the basis of my opinion and my faith.

‘However, something similar could happen to anyone of any faith or none if he or she dares to hold views that are not deemed to be politically correct.

The Christian Institute, which is supporting Dr Raabe’s High Court challenge to the ACMD, has called his removal from his post, ‘worryingly like some sort of anti-Christian McCarthyism.’

The Home Office meanwhile, has urged him to retract the views he expressed in the report on homosexuality that caused such uproar.
Should he not have done so?

‘I cannot retract scientific evidence,’ he says simply. ‘And if I did so, I would have to ask the Home Office to retract its own paper, too.’


Elocution thriving in Britain

Curious: In Australia, the very word is politically incorrect. There are no elocution teachers in the phone book. A few older ladies still teach it but they are listed as “speech and drama” teachers. I sent my son to one for a year but his teacher told me he had very “cultured vowels” anyway

The Essex accent has long attracted ridicule and disapproval. But primary school teachers say it also has a damaging effect on children’s spelling and grammar. So they have introduced elocution lessons in an effort to improve pupils’ written work.

The children are learning to say ‘computer’ instead of ‘computa’ and ‘aren’t’ in place of ‘ain’t’ as well as being told to stop ending sentences with ‘yeah?’.

Up to 200 seven to 11-year-olds are having weekly lessons with a private tutor at the Cherry Tree Primary School in Basildon, Essex.

Teachers say there has been great progress in their spelling and writing since the lessons were introduced a year ago. Some parents are even being corrected on their pronunciation at home by their children.

The spotlight has been turned on the Essex accent following the huge success of the reality TV show The Only Way Is Essex.

Terri Chudleigh, the school’s literacy co-ordinator, insisted: ‘This is not about being ashamed of the Essex accent – it’s about helping the children to speak properly so they can improve their reading and writing. ‘They weren’t saying words correctly and were therefore misspelling them. ‘We had lots of youngsters writing ‘sbort’ instead of ‘sport’ and ‘wellw’ instead of ‘well’.

‘They now have half-hourly sessions where they get taken through exercises and learn to use the “posh voices” in their heads.

‘They really enjoy the sessions. The feedback we’ve had from parents has been very positive. We’ve had them tell us their children are going home and correcting them on their speech!’

During the sessions, children run through speech exercises and are encouraged to use ‘posh voices’.

Francesca Gordon-Smith, who runs the classes through her business Positive Voice, said: ‘When they’re writing, the children have their elocution voice in their head. ‘They speak clearer, they’re pronouncing their Ts and generally finishing sentences.’

The classes have also improved pupils’ grammar, for example by telling them to use ‘we were’ instead of ‘we was’.

Rising numbers of all ages from all over Britain are turning to elocution, according to research by the website.


British universities ‘dropping science in favour of media studies’

The students concerned obviously don’t expect to pay back their student loans

Universities are increasingly axing courses in traditional academic disciplines such as science in favour of the performing arts, media studies and photography, according to research.

Figures show a “major change” in the balance of subjects offered in British higher education since the mid-90s after dozens of former polytechnics adopted full university status.

Researchers told of a significant decline in the number of institutions offering degrees in the physical sciences, with chemistry courses dropping by a fifth and physics declining by almost a third.

Most subjects in the fields of engineering and technology also saw a “marked decrease”, it was revealed, and the number of universities teaching botany halved.

At the same time, it emerged that the biggest increases were in areas such as the creative and performing arts, media studies, publishing, journalism and cimematics and photography. The number of universities offering media studies alone tripled while courses in journalism increased four-fold.

The Higher Education Policy Institute, which published the report, also said that rising numbers of university places had been claimed by foreign students and a falling number of institutions demanded the very highest A-level grades for entry.

Researchers insisted that major changes in subject provision between 1994 and 2010 – the period covered by the report – matched shifting application patterns among students.

Last night, a leading academic also warned that the shift reflected the influence of school league tables as growing numbers of teachers push pupils onto “easier” subjects to boost their rankings – having a knock-on effect on higher education choices.

Alan Smithers, professor of education at Buckingham University, said: “Many students have been encouraged to try out these newer, sexier-sounding courses that are not as demanding at GCSE and A-level and this has fed through to the universities.

“Another thing to consider is that these courses are relatively cheap to put on so the newer universities have been able to expand their provision in these areas, whereas some others such as the sciences, which traditionally attracted a small number of students, would have been very expensive.”

A spokesman for the Royal Society of Chemistry said: “We’re actually seeing a resurgence of chemistry: in recent months Kings College London, Brighton and Lancaster have all announced new chemistry courses and departments and several other institutions are considering doing the same.

“Vice-chancellors clearly see how a chemistry course offers great value for money to the university, the students and the UK overall.”

Prof Peter Main, from the Institute of Physics, said the decline of science courses was an “unfortunate consequence” of funding mechanisms operated under Labour which appeared to penalise laboratory-based subjects. “This issue was addressed in 2007 and since then there have been no further closures, but we remain vigilant to ensure that nothing similar happens in the future,” he said.

According to the HEPI study, the overall number of higher education institutions has dropped since the mid-90s – from 183 to 165.

Some universities have been merged or taken over by competitors, although 18 new institutions have entered the sector in this period – mainly specialist colleges focusing on creative and performing arts.

The shift has coincided with a large number of courses either opening or closing, the report said. It emerged that chemistry is now taught in just 66 universities compared with 83 in the mid-90s, while physics has declined from 69 to 47.

Materials science courses have almost halved from 10 to six, maritime technology has dropped from 11 to just five and botany is taught in 11 universities compared with 22 in the mid-90s.

At the same time, other courses have significantly expanded. The number of universities offering media studies has soared from 37 to 111, while journalism courses have increased from 16 to 68.

Cinematics and photography degrees have more than doubled from 37 to 85, while drama degrees have increased from 70 to 102, music has grown from 71 to 96 and crafts has increased more than four-fold from four to 17.

But other more traditional courses have also expanded, with law, politics and English degrees increasing by around a fifth each. Maths has also bucked the trend by expanding.

In a further conclusion, the study revealed that a “diminishing number of institutions require the highest entry grades”, with fewer universities demanding at least two As and a B at A-level for entry between 2004 and 2009.

This suggests that the brightest students are being concentrated into a small number of elite institutions as the competition for places mounts.

Researchers also said that many more universities have enrolled “significant numbers of students from outside the UK” who can often be charged far higher fees than British and EU undergraduates. “It is now the norm for institutions to enroll more than 15 per cent of their students from countries other than the UK,” the report said.


An interesting example of an extremely limited diet

The young woman above looks perfectly fine and has a job — and she has got that way on about as “incorrect” a diet as possible. She eventually suffered a problem that was probably diet-related but the interesting thing is that she got so far on her very limited diet. I think it shows that all diet commandments are greatly exaggerated. The extremely limited diet of traditional Eskimos, featuring almost nothing but meat and fat, is another case in point. And they have a LOW rate of cardiovascular disease

A TEENAGE girl who has eaten almost nothing else except chicken nuggets for 15 years has been warned by doctors the junk food is killing her. Stacey Irvine, 17, has been hooked on the fast food since her mother bought her some at a McDonald’s restaurant when she was two, The Daily Telegraph reported.

Shocked doctors learned of her habit when the factory worker, from Birmingham, north of London, collapsed and was taken to hospital after struggling to breathe.

Ms Irvine, who has never eaten fruit or vegetables, had swollen veins in her tongue and was found to have anaemia.

Medics gave her a series of injections and started her on an urgent course of vitamins.

Despite being warned she could die if she stuck to her nugget addiction, she still can’t resist the fast food.

Despite a diet that regularly means she eats at least a third more than the 56g of fat recommended by experts, she manages to keep relatively trim.

This may be down to the amount of exercise she does or to her metabolism.

But the craving is taking a toll on her health. A lack of vitamins and other nutrients combined with a dangerous amount of salt can raise blood pressure and weaken the immune system and lead to an increased risk of heart attacks or strokes, particularly as Ms Irvine ages.

A less serious consequence of her craving is that she is struggling to find places to store all the free toys and novelties that come with the meals. They currently fill four bin bags.

Her exasperated mother Evonne Irvine, 39, who is battling to get her daughter seen by a specialist, said: “It breaks my heart to see her eating those damned nuggets.

“She’s been told in no uncertain terms that she’ll die if she carries on like this. But she says she can’t eat anything else.”

She once tried unsuccessfully to starve her daughter in a bid to have her eat nutritious food.

Ms Irvine, whose only other variation in her diet is the occasional slice of toast for breakfast – and crisps – said that once she tried nuggets she “loved them so much they were all I would eat”.

Evonne Irvine’s other two children – Leo, five, and Ava, three – both eat healthily.

In one six-piece portion of McNuggets there are 280 calories, 17g of fat, 16g of carbohydrate, 14g protein, and 600mg sodium and in a small portion of fries there are 230 calories, 11g of fat, 29g of carbohydrates, 3g protein and 160mg sodium.

If Ms Irvine ate three portions of each in a day she would eat a third more fat and almost double the recommended salt but virtually no vitamin C.

Each portion of nuggets contains just two per cent of the daily vitamin C requirement.


“Smart” meter cock-up

Millions of green energy meters may have to be replaced because the technology is not working properly. Homes and businesses which have already installed the digital devices have had problems switching to cheap deals and are even being hit with extra fees. Many meters could have to be stripped out altogether and reinstalled with a Government-approved model.

A Daily Mail investigation has revealed how some small businesses are being charged 20p a day simply to have a smart meter while many homeowners are being asked to give readings to energy firms because the technology is not transmitting their data properly.

The latest green energy fiasco is the result of suppliers pressing ahead with installing their own smart meters before the Government has decided on a standard model.

Every home and small business is due by 2019 to get a smart device, which is designed to show people how much energy they are using by the minute, so encouraging them to cut back to save money and energy.

However, even though installing the meters does not officially begin until 2014, many energy companies, including E.ON and Npower, are already doing so. This is because they will need to replace around 30million old electricity meters and 23million gas meters by the 2019 deadline.

Energy regulator Ofgem estimates four million smart meters are likely to be installed before 2014, while British Gas confirmed it has put in 400,000 so far.

However, because details of how the smart meters will work are not expected to be announced by the Government until March, many of the current devices may not be compatible and could have to be replaced in the future.

The scheme is due to cost energy companies £11.7billion, which they plan to pass on to consumers by hiking prices. Smart meters are expected to add £6 to the average annual bill by 2015.

In a letter to suppliers, energy watchdog Ofgem said it was also concerned that suppliers may not be able to read meters installed by a rival company. This renders the new technology useless if customers want to switch deals – in effect, the smart meter would work like the old types of ‘dumb’ meters currently in homes.

A spokesman said: ‘The meters being installed at present are not built to a common technical specification. As such, when a customer changes supplier, the new supplier may not be able to utilise the advanced functionality. ‘Furthermore, if the meter is not a compliant smart meter then it will have to be replaced by the end of the rollout.’

Consumer groups have also warned the green scheme is fast becoming a costly disaster. Zoe McLeod, of Consumer Focus, said: ‘We have repeatedly raised concerns about the cost and installation of smart meters. Customers – who will ultimately foot the bill – need to be confident that they will see tangible benefits.’

Last year, Money Mail revealed concerns that energy companies would try to sell expensive products to homeowners when installing smart meters.

Consumer groups have also warned that the devices will allow suppliers to cut off energy at the ‘flick of a switch’ without even having to enter people’s homes.


How the Friends of the Earth lost their focus

Their critics complain that the environmental activists came to represent ‘Interminable meetings, not action’.

“Good gracious” exclaimed the newly retired ambassador, surveying my bald pate. “It’s Geoff Lean, isn’t it? We last saw each other when we exposed the illegal selling of a tiger skin in 1979.”

Thursday evening was that kind of an occasion. Friends of the Earth – which I have been covering since its formation in 1970 – was, rather belatedly, celebrating its 40th anniversary in a fashionable but forbidding London nightclub, and hundreds of its former campaigners were staging noisy mini-reunions with each other and with a few long-standing outsiders, like me.

And for once the pressure group, long past its youthful best, had something to celebrate besides longevity. The day before, it had scored its first significant victory for many moons when the Appeal Court ruled illegal a Government attempt to cut the feed-in tariff for solar power before the end of a consultation on the move. And there are signs that it may be beginning to revive itself after years of decline.

But the conversations – over hairily organic canapes made from food due to go to waste – were about the past, not the future. John Denham, the former Labour cabinet minister, even bumped into the man who had given him his first job, as an energy efficiency advisor for the organisation in 1977.

He, and many others from that time, reminisced about the cramped, cluttered, two-room offices in Soho’s Poland Street, where most of FoE’s – to give it its deliberately aggressive acronym – best campaigns were born. The group burst to national attention in 1971 when Schweppes stopped making its bottles returnable: on a sunny Saturday a procession of friends took 1,500 non-returnable ones back to the company’s headquarters, under the slogan: “Don’t let them Schh… on Britain.”

The demonstration’s lightheartedness – contrasting with the often ugly confrontations of the time – caught the public imagination, and over the next weeks local groups sprang up across the country. FoE went on, within three years, to win famous victories in stopping Rio Tinto Zinc from digging a vast copper mine in the Snowdonia National Park, preventing the Scottish hamlet of Drumbuie being turned into a site for building oil rigs, and persuading the government to ban the import of whale products and leopard and tiger skins.

More important, it kick-started still-continuing debates on whaling, nuclear power, renewables, transport policy, food wastage, and energy efficiency. It introduced then-revolutionary, but now commonplace, concepts, such as that building roads rarely solves congestion because it increases traffic, or that human error is the main cause of nuclear accidents and is hard to eliminate.

At the time, it seemed that FoE’s feisty group of young campaigners would rise to the top of British public life, but none, apart from Denham, did so. My ambassador, Tim Clarke (who represented the EU in Tanzania), and its most effective executive director, Tom Burke (who became a key advisor to three consecutive Conservative environment ministers before ending up at his former adversary Rio Tinto), achieved some prominence, while another early campaigner, Amory Lovins, became an alternative energy guru in America. Most, impressively, continued to pursue their concerns in academia or other pressure groups.

David Green, who gave Denham his job, spent many years in the unglamorous business of promoting combined heat and power generation. Early wildlife campaigners Sue Clifford and Angela King set up Common Ground, which has fought to save Britain’s orchards. And Fiona Weir, perhaps its best air pollution campaigner, now runs the single parent charity Gingerbead.

Meanwhile FoE grew in size, and shrank in effectiveness. Campaigners increasingly became over-specialised and over-concerned with trying to affect government policy behind the scenes, confusing access with influence, activity with achievement. Like many other green pressure groups it became increasingly seduced by the establishment it once challenged. And despite a few big successes – such as securing the 2008 Climate Change Act – it had relatively little impact.

Last year, a former executive director, Charles Secrett, accurately accused it and other green groups of being “out of touch, ineffective and bureaucratic”, adding: “Interminable meetings, not action, are the order of most days.”

FoE’s present leadership, however, does recognise the problem, and is finally trying to tackle it, starting with a long-overdue restructuring. The campaign team is being shaken up and new issues, which concern a broader public than just environmentalists, are being taken on. One such project on energy bill increases – mainly caused by the rising cost of fossil fuels – has already started, another on saving collapsing bee populations starts in April.

“There are finally some good signs, even if they are so far more organisational than operational”, says Tom Burke. The pressure group must hope that, for it, life can begin again at 40.



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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One Response to


    We observe (1) Human Cell Damage, (2) DNA Chain Breaks and (3) Breaches in the Blood-Brain Barrier in the laboratory when testing the radiation from smart meters at radiation levels considerably lower and less frequent than smart meters emit attached to homes.

    These radiation effects on the body can result in cancer, tumors, miscarriage, birth defects, semen degradation (infertility) and a large number of other problems and illnesses to a body.

    It surprises us that those people who claim safety of this product do so without ever being in a testing laboratory.

    It is understandable why the utility companies and smart meter manufacturers would lie to the public, but it is curious why some members of the public support harm to their own families within their own homes.

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