NHS spends £23m a year on translators: Costs rise as hospitals cater for 120 languages
Most of these people would have relatives who could translate for them
The NHS spends £64,000 a day on translation services, a report reveals today. The cost to the taxpayer has risen by 17 per cent since 2007, with more than £23million spent last year.
Experts said huge sums could be saved if hospitals and GP surgeries pooled resources – and warned that translating information for those who do not speak English could encourage segregation.
Following freedom of information requests to every NHS trust, the report states that the Health Service spent £23.3million on written translation and interpreters last year.
Some trusts translated material into 120 languages.
Julia Manning, of 2020Health, the think-tank that conducted the research, said: ‘The costs involved are truly staggering in an age of austerity, and incredible when taken in the context of efficiency savings of £20billion across the Health Service.
‘Urgent action must be taken by trusts to stem the flow of translation costs, and our report sets out a number of recommendations that would do exactly that without altering the level of care given.’
These include establishing a central library of information that has already been translated, which could be used by trusts across the country.
The report also highlights trusts which do not provide any translation services, and instead produce documents in ‘easy to read’ English suitable for patients learning the language.
A spokesman for Calderdale Primary Care Trust in Halifax said it did not ‘routinely translate anything’, adding: ‘Research among patient groups told us that they actually prefer the easy-read version, rather than a translated brochure.’
Miss Manning continued: ‘It wouldn’t take much effort to drastically cut the £23million of taxpayers’ money that is spent each year on bureaucratic and often duplicated translation . . . and free the money up for treating patients.’
The report reveals that trusts across Birmingham spent £4.9million on translation and interpreters last year.
Other big spenders include Central Manchester University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, which spent £3.7million; Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust, which spent £2.4million; and London-based Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust, which spent £2million.
Emma Boon, of the TaxPayers’ Alliance, said: ‘Taxpayers will be shocked that so much is being spent on translation and interpretation in the NHS.
They expect their money to be going towards treatment for sick people, not on language services.
‘There will always be a need for some interpretation – for example, if people visiting the UK get sick and need emergency treatment.
‘But those who live in Britain should make an effort to learn to speak English so that they are not burdening services like the NHS with ongoing costs for translation.’
The report also examines the effects of using translators on society.
It questions whether catering to those who do not speak the language is helpful, or instead ostracises them from the English-speaking majority.
Many public bodies provide translations, but their legal obligation is far from clear.
The Human Rights Act only requires translations if someone is arrested or charged with a criminal offence – but the Race Relations Act says that all parts of the community should have access to services.
It emerged last year that the Ministry of Justice spent more than £100million in six years on translation. The Ministry is now cutting its budget by £2billion.
By the next general election, it plans to have closed almost 150 courts.
In August, it was reported that the police had spent £82million on translators in three years.
100 British Conservatives revolt over wind farms
David Cameron has been hit by a major protest by Conservative MPs over the Government’s backing for wind farms, The Sunday Telegraph can disclose.
A total of 101 Tory MPs have written to the Prime Minister demanding that the £400 million-a-year subsidies paid to the “inefficient” onshore wind turbine industry are “dramatically cut”.
The backbenchers, joined by some MPs from other parties, have also called on Mr Cameron to tighten up planning laws so local people have a better chance of stopping new farms being developed and protecting the countryside.
The demands will be a headache for Ed Davey, the Liberal Democrat Energy Secretary, who joined the Cabinet on Friday when Chris Huhne resigned after being charged with perverting the course of justice.
Mr Huhne, who denies claims that he asked his ex-wife, Vicky Pryce, to accept speeding penalty points on his behalf, was an enthusiastic proponent of wind farms. There are currently more than 3,000 onshore wind turbines in Britain.
At least 4,500 more turbines are expected to go up as the Government’s drive to meet legally binding targets for cutting carbon emissions sparks a green energy boom.
Critics say wind farms are inefficient because the wind cannot be guaranteed to blow at times of greatest energy demand. They are also said to be unsightly, blighting the landscape.
Wind farms are also accused of forcing up energy bills while swallowing disproportionate amounts of taxpayer-funded subsidies.
The Tory MPs, including several of the party’s rising stars as well as former ministers, say it is wrong that hard-pressed consumers must pay for the expansion of onshore wind power.
In the letter sent to No 10 Downing Street last week, which has been seen by The Sunday Telegraph, the MPs say they have become “more and more concerned” about government “support for onshore wind energy production”.
“In these financially straitened times, we think it is unwise to make consumers pay, through taxpayer subsidy, for inefficient and intermittent energy production that typifies onshore wind turbines,” they say. The MPs want the savings spread between other “reliable” forms of renewable energy production.
They have also called on Mr Cameron to change the proposed National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) so that it gives local people who object to proposed wind farms a better chance of victory in the planning process. The framework has finished a public consultation process and is awaiting the green light from ministers.
The letter reads: “We also are worried that the new National Planning Policy Framework, in its current form, diminishes the chances of local people defeating onshore wind farm proposals through the planning system.”
The number of Tory signatories to the letter, organised by Chris Heaton-Harris, the Conservative backbencher, means that the controversy could be the biggest protest to hit Mr Cameron since the Coalition was formed. Last October, 81 Tory MPs defied him in a Commons vote on holding a referendum over Britain’s future in the European Union.
The letter’s backers claim that while other Conservatives who are ministers and parliamentary private secretaries are unable to sign because they are part of the government “payroll”, they too privately support the move against wind farms.
It is understood that there is also support from the Treasury. Among the signatories are former Conservative ministers including David Davis and Christopher Chope, as well as party grandees such as Bernard Jenkin and Nicholas Soames. They are joined by several rising stars including Matthew Hancock, Nadhim Zahawi and Steven Barclay.
Mr Hancock, who is close to the Chancellor, George Osborne, said last night: “I support renewable energy but we need to do it in a way that gives the most value for money and that does not destroy our natural environment.”
Another Tory MP who signed the letter, Tracey Crouch, said: “It is tragic that we blight our countryside with hideous electricity pylons and now we intend not only to do the same with onshore wind farms but also to subsidise them.
“I’d much rather see better planning regulations and greater investment in other sources of renewable energy, which will protect the beauty of our countryside for future generations.”
Latest figures from Ofgem, the energy regulator, showed that £1.1 billion in taxpayer subsidies was paid to the producers of renewable energy in 2009-10.
Of this, about £522 million was for wind power, with most going to onshore wind farms. Much of this cash ended up in the hands of energy companies and investment funds which are based abroad.
The highest-profile critic of the onshore wind industry is the Duke of Edinburgh. Last year it emerged that the Duke claimed farms were a “disgrace” and they would “never work”.
Mr Huhne, by contrast, has described turbines as “elegant” and “beautiful”. His successor, Mr Davey, is thought to be bringing a more pragmatic approach to the Department for Energy and Climate Change.
Mr Davey says he is committed to promoting a “green economy” but has also stated that he is “conscious” of the impact on households of high energy bills in tough economic times.
A Downing Street spokesman said: “We need a low carbon infrastructure and onshore wind is a cost effective and valuable part of the diverse energy mix.
“The Government has commissioned a review of subsidy levels and we are proposing a cut for onshore wind subsidies to take into account the fact that costs are coming down.
“We are committed to giving local communities the power to shape the spaces in which they live and are getting rid of regional targets introduced by the last government.”
Britain’s professor of crap
David Cameron and Michael Gove were yesterday said to be against the idea of Lib Dem-backed Professor Les Ebdon becoming university access supremo. Looking at some of the Mickey Mouse courses offered by his college, it is not hard to see why.
Chum Ebdon is vice-chancellor of the University of Bedfordshire (formerly Luton College of Higher Education). Some of its degrees are less than scholastic in flavour.
Take its two-year course in carnival arts, offering undergraduates the chance to ‘learn how to design and make carnival costumes and decorations’. Is this higher education or an extension of Blue Peter? By carnival, the university means Notting Hill rather than the Carnevale di Venezia.
If steel drumming and feather-bikini stitching (and, presumably, riot control) are not to your taste, Prof Ebdon offers degrees in beauty spa management. Work experience ‘is gained from working in the college’s own salon’. It brings new resonance to the term ‘foundation’ course.
There is a course in ‘breastfeeding counselling’, a degree in football studies and a post-grad course in sport tourism management. That one promises ‘academic theory in tourism, leisure and events’. Ah, events, dear boy, events. But they probably mean it in the egg-and-spoon-race sense.
The University of Ebdon also offers a course in travel agency. It encourages people already working in the travel business to come along for a couple of years to ‘fine-tune those personal qualities that will make you an excellent candidate for travel management positions’. Is it really the duty of public money to get travel agents promoted?
Prof Ebdon, a leading critic of university fees, thinks so. Those of you whose taxes help fund the University of Bedfordshire and his salary (some £246,000 at last count) may disagree. His proposed berth at the Office for Fair Access pays £45,000 for just two days a week.
How can Lib Dems even think of allowing such a goon to dictate principles to our best universities?
Numeracy Campaign: British teenagers among worst for dropping maths
British schoolchildren are less likely to study maths to a high standard than in most other developed countries because of failings in the way the subject is delivered, a leading academic has warned.
Prof Stephen Sparks said that few pupils took maths beyond the age of 16 after being “put off” by test-driven lessons in primary and secondary school.
He said classes often focused on the dry “procedures” behind sums to make sure children pass exams instead of passing on a well-rounded understanding of the subject.
Only one in eight teenagers studies maths in the sixth-form, leaving Britain trailing behind many other developed nations. Between 50 and 100 per cent of teenagers in other countries, including the Czech Republic, Estonia, Fin-
land, Japan and Korea, study maths to a decent level, the figures show. Prof Sparks, chairman of the Advisory Committee on Mathematics Education (ACME), which represents academics and teachers, said the number of pupils failing to take A-level maths “puts us at a real anomaly internationally and likely affects our economic competitiveness”.
The comments came as The Daily Telegraph started a campaign, Make Britain Count, to highlight the scale of the mathematical crisis and provide parents with tools to boost their children’s numeracy.
The Nuffield Foundation compared the number of pupils studying advanced maths in 24 industrialised countries. Around 13 per cent of students took
A-levels in the subject in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. In Scotland, numbers reached around a quarter. In almost every other nation, more than half of pupils took advanced maths courses, while in eight countries, including South Korea, Russia, Sweden and Taiwan, maths was compulsory until the age of 18.
Prof Sparks called for the majority of pupils to study maths up to the age of 18, and said that some teenagers should take tailored courses “between a GCSE and A-level”. “The reason some people are being put off maths is related to that issue of teaching to the test,” he said. “Schools are given a big incentive to make sure pupils pass tests, which doesn’t necessarily mean that they get the well-rounded understanding that a good education requires.”
Vitamin D could help combat the effects of aging in eyes
If you are a mouse. Since mice have short lives and we have long ones, studying aging in mice and hoping it will generalize to humans is considerable optimism
Researchers funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) have found that vitamin D reduces the effects of ageing in mouse eyes and improves the vision of older mice significantly. The researchers hope that this might mean that vitamin D supplements could provide a simple and effective way to combat age-related eye diseases, such as macular degeneration (AMD), in people.
The research was carried out by a team from the Institute of Ophthalmology at University College London and is published in the current issue of the journal Neurobiology of Ageing.
Professor Glen Jeffery, who led the work, explains “In the back of the eyes of mammals, like mice and humans, is a layer of tissue called the retina. Cells in the retina detect light as it comes into the eyes and then send messages to the brain, which is how we see. This is a demanding job, and the retina actually requires proportionally more energy than any other tissue in the body, so it has to have a good supply of blood. However, with ageing the high energy demand produces debris and there is progressive inflammation even in normal animals. In humans this can result in a decline of up to 30% in the numbers of light receptive cells in the eye by the time we are 70 and so lead to poorer vision.”
The researchers found that when old mice were given vitamin D for just six weeks, inflammation was reduced, the debris partially removed, and tests showed that their vision was improved.
The researchers identified two changes taking place in the eyes of the mice that they think accounted for this improvement. Firstly, the number of potentially damaging cells, called macrophages, were reduced considerably in the eyes of the mice given vitamin D. Macrophages are an important component of our immune systems where they work to fight off infections. However in combating threats to the aged body they can sometimes bring about damage and inflammation. Giving mice vitamin D not only led to reduced numbers of macrophages in the eye, but also triggered the remaining macrophages to change to a different configuration. Rather than damaging the eye the researchers think that in their new configuration macrophages actively worked to reduce inflammation and clear up debris.
The second change the researchers saw in the eyes of mice given vitamin D was a reduction in deposits of a toxic molecule called amyloid beta that accumulates with age. Inflammation and the accumulation of amyloid beta are known to contribute, in humans, to an increased risk of age-related macular degeneration (AMD), the largest cause of blindness in people over 50 in the developed world. The researchers think that, based on their findings in mice, giving vitamin D supplements to people who are at risk of AMD might be a simple way of helping to prevent the disease.
Professor Jeffery said “When we gave older mice the vitamin D we found that deposits of amyloid beta were reduced in their eyes and the mice showed an associated improvement of vision. People might have heard of amyloid beta as being linked to Alzheimer’s disease and new evidence suggests that vitamin D could have a role in reducing its build up in the brain. So, when we saw this effect in the eyes as well, we immediately wondered where else these deposits might be being reduced.”
Professor Jeffery and his team then went on to study some of the blood vessels of their mice. They found that the mice that had been given the vitamin D supplement also had significantly less amyloid beta built up in their blood vessels, including in the aorta.
Professor Jeffery continues “Finding that amyloid deposits were reduced in the blood vessels of mice that had been given vitamin D supplements suggests that vitamin D could be useful in helping to prevent a range of age-related health problems, from deteriorating vision to heart disease.”
Professor Jeffery thinks that this link between vitamin D and a range of age-related diseases might be linked to our evolutionary history. For much of human history our ancestors lived in Africa, probably without clothes, and so were exposed to strong sunlight all year round. This would have triggered vitamin D production in the skin. Humans have only moved to less sunny parts of the world and adopted clothing relatively recently and so might not be well adapted to reduced exposure to the sun. Secondly, life expectancy in the developed world has increased greatly over the past few centuries, so reduced exposure to vitamin D is now coupled with exceptionally long lifespan.
Professor Jeffery said “Researchers need to run full clinical trials in humans before we can say confidently that older people should start taking vitamin D supplements, but there is growing evidence that many of us in the Western world are deficient in vitamin D and this could be having significant health implications.”
Professor Douglas Kell, BBSRC Chief Executive said “Many people are living to an unprecedented old age in the developed world. All too often though, a long life does not mean a healthy one and the lives of many older people are blighted by ill health as parts of their bodies start to malfunction.
“If we are to have any hope of ensuring that more people can enjoy a healthy, productive retirement then we must learn more about the changes that take place as animals age. This research shows how close study of one part of the body can lead scientists to discover new knowledge that is more widely applicable. By studying the fundamental biology of one organ scientists can begin to draw links between a number of diseases in the hope of developing preventive strategies.”
Damning British report finds £2 billion free nursery scheme ‘has failed’
Theory trumps facts again. The American equivalent — Head Start — has been failing for 40 years
Labour’s multi-billion pound investment in free nursery education has failed to raise school standards, a damning auditors’ report revealed yesterday. Free sessions for all three and four-year-olds – costing up to £1.9 billion-a-year – have failed to translate into improved exam results at age seven.
The scheme was specifically intended to boost children’s development throughout primary and secondary school. But a report by the National Audit Office found ‘it is not yet clear that the entitlement is leading to longer-term educational benefits’.
The authors found that the quality of nurseries was patchy across the country, partly due to poor qualifications among some staff.
Providers were allowed to go an average of 47 months between official inspections, denying parents current information about nursery standards.
Labour introduced free nursery places for four-year-olds in 1998, adding three-year-olds to the scheme in 2004. By September 2010, both three and four-year-olds were eligible for 15 hours per week of free education, for 38 weeks a year.
The Coalition plans to expand the scheme still further, reaching 40 per cent of two-year-olds by 2014/15.
But the public spending watchdog found no evidence the scheme had improved children’s learning – despite the introduction of a so-called ‘nappy [diaper] curriculum’ for nurseries setting down a raft of developmental milestones.
The first children to benefit from two years of free nursery sessions from age three sat national tests for seven-year-olds in 2009, auditors said. Yet results in the so-called ‘key stage one’ tests have shown barely any improvement since 2007.
‘The department did intend that the entitlement would have lasting effects on child development throughout primary school and beyond,’ the report said. ‘National key stage one results, however, have shown almost no improvement since 2007, so it is not yet clear that the entitlement is leading to longer-term educational benefits.’
There was tentative evidence of an effect on children’s learning at five, the report said, but it had failed to last until age seven.
The findings come as a blow to the Government, which has estimated that better education standards driven by the free nursery places will boost national wealth.
Civil servants claim that a pupil achieving five GCSEs at grade C or above will go on to reap lifetime earnings £45,000 than a classmate with no GCSEs.
It needs to bring 5,542 extra children to the five GCSEs benchmark to ensure the nursery places scheme breaks even.
Auditors found that the free nursery entitlement cost £1.6billion in 2010/11, rising to £1.9billion in 2011/12.
The Department for Education has no clear information on how much the scheme cost prior to this, it emerged.
But the best nurseries were not necessarily the best-funded, and quality was variable across the country, the research found. In some areas, just 64 per cent of nurseries were judged by Ofsted to offer a good standard of education, against 97 per cent in others.
Overall, three in 10 children received their free sessions at nurseries not rated ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’ by Ofsted.
Amyas Morse, head of the National Audit Office, said the Department for Education needed to do more to assess the long-term benefits of the scheme. This was necessary ‘to get the best return for children from the £1.9billion spent each year.’
Hate-filled academics at Britain’s Oxford university: “Baroness Thatcher is at the centre of a new row at Oxford University after plans to name a building after Britain’s first female Prime Minister were revealed. Some academics are hoping to snub one of the university’s most illustrious alumnae again – more than 25 years after protests there led to her being denied an honorary degree. Thatcher became the first Oxford educated Prime Minister since the Second World War to be refused an honorary degree from the University in 1985 following student protests amidst cuts to education. And now 17 years on a new revolt could halt plans to name a new facility after her.”
There is a big new lot of postings by Chris Brand just up — on his usual vastly “incorrect” themes of race, genes, IQ etc.