NHS managers want to limit Freedom of Information requests
No mystery why. Their neglect of their patients and their constant harmful bungles are notorious
NHS managers are seeking to limit the public’s ability to use the Freedom of Information Act by making them pay for all but the most minor of queries.
The Foundation Trust Network believes its 200 members are spending around £30 million on freedom of information (FOI) requests a year, with administrative staff being pulled off normal duties to help reply to them.
At the moment public authorities like health trusts can only charge those making FOI requests if the cost of reply exceeds £450. The FTN wants this brought down, although it is not saying by how much.
Health campaigners have hit out at the move, describing it as “totally unacceptable” and “a terrible backwards step”. Ken Lownds, of the group Cure the NHS, set up in the wake of the nursing scandal at Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust, said: “It is already an absolute nightmare for patients or loved-ones to get information. “This is designed to make it even more difficult. It is totally unacceptable.”
Up to 1,200 mainly elderly people are thought to have died at hospitals in Stafford and Cannock Chase due to substandard nursing care between 2005 and 2008.
Peter Walsh, chief executive of the charity Action against Medical Accidents (AvMA), said FOIs were instrumantal in unearthing some of the problems there. For example, Mid Staffs had “remarkably low” numbers of referrals to the General Medical Council and Nursing and Midwifery Council, he said, a fact only brought to light by FOIs.
He commented: “We think it would be a terrible backward step if the ability to obtain information under FOI was restricted.”
Katherine Murphy, chief executive of the Patients Association, said: “This move could make it prohibitively expensive to obtain information through FOIs, which would not be in the interests of accountability of transparency.”
The FTN outlined its intentions in its submission to an inquiry into how the Freedom of Information Act is working, set up by the House of Commons’ Justice Select Committee. It stated that while the FTN “supports the principles of openness and transparency”, in the light of financial pressures “it would be sensible to re-focus FOI activity more clearly on matters of public interest and to streamline the process for responding to legitimate requests”.
It estimated each trust was spending between £175,000 an £250,000 a year dealing with FOI requests, amounting to “significant sums of public money being diverted away from the core business of caring for patients”. Administrative staff were being diverted from jobs like appointment booking to deal with FOIs at some trusts, it noted.
Under the Act, public authorities including health organisations are required to respond to FOIs costing less than £450 without charging the requestor. “This translates to 18 hours work, or two and a half person-days at £25 an hours before a charge is made for the cost of responding,” according to the submission. “The FTN believes that this threshold should be lowered.”
The submission also noted that the average cost of dealing with a request was £500 – meaning any move to reduce the threshold could result in only the simplest being answered for free.
The FTN was also concerned that FOIs were being made for commercial reasons, with companies seeking to elicit information to help decide how to bid for services. Many came from media organisations, it added.
Last month the Ministry of Justice said there was “limited evidence” from requestors to the select committee’s inquiry. However, the submissions deadline passed on February 3.
The select committee is due to review submissions later this year, before recommending changes to the law.
47 Alleged Paedophiles, All Muslim Men, in Liverpool Crown Court
Strangely, these alleged paedophiles were shipped in from other parts of the country. The real reason for this is unclear but it is rather bizarre, considering some of the offences were committed as far afield as Rochdale, Burnley and Bolton.
This is the first time in British history that forty seven (47) alleged paedophiles have been in court together. This is THE biggest news story in Britain since the Yorkshire Ripper. And yet, for months the news and front pages have been dominated by a ridiculous argument about what names two overpaid footballers allegedly said to each other on a football pitch.
But, the REAL NEWS that innocent little children are being repeatedly raped by gangs of evil paedophiles, especially in the North of England, goes unreported.
So why hasn’t it been front page news for twelve months? Where are all the investigative journalists?
The answer to this conundrum is that ALL of the defendants (the accused) are Muslim males, and ALL of the victims were little white girls, under the age of sixteen, and very often as young as 10, 11, 12 and 13 years of age.
Do you think the media would have kept this quiet, if these 47 alleged paedophiles had been white? Of course not.
The media was there yesterday, and their mantra was “It wouldn’t be right to report on this yet, as nobody has been convicted. These 47 Muslims are only alleged to be guilty.” My answer to this was “Neither has John Terry been convicted of any charge, but you people have hung drawn and quartered him already and forced him out of his job. Why treat Muslims or other foreigners better than English people?”
If the establishment let this particular cat out of the bag, their lies about a so-called “multi-cultural dream” would be well and truly dead. The questions that need to be asked are;
Q: How would I feel if MY daughter had been molested, drugged and raped by paedophiles?
Q: How would I feel if MY grand-daughter had been repeatedly raped by gangs of men?
Q: How would I feel if my niece had been coerced, threatened and blackmailed into sex acts with adults?
Your child may have had her life destroyed by these evil perverts; she may be hooked on drugs; she may be so traumatised that she has gone from being a happy-go-lucky innocent child, into a cowed, drugged, defiled and terrified young woman. Worse still, your child may have gone to an early grave, as 14 year old Charlene Downes did. Your whole family may spend the rest of their lives traumatised by these shocking experiences. How would YOU feel about this?
I have no doubt that the media will say that those of us that were there to draw attention to this case, are ‘extremists’ and ‘trouble makers’. But, the truth is getting out and soon every British person will be aware of what is happening to our children.
We understand that not all Muslims are paedophiles and we realise that this type of behaviour is present in all races and religions but what concerns us is that the men on trial in the Crown Court are following the example of their prophet Mohammed.
The Koran teaches that the Infidels (us) are not worthy of respect and that we must be conquered at all costs. Unfortunately for some of our children this cost is the suffering they experience at the hands of gang rapists who believe that it is totally acceptable to groom, drug and rape at will.
Christianity under attack: Anger as major court rulings go against British worshippers
A landmark legal ruling banning the tradition of saying prayers at council meetings was denounced last night as an ‘assault on Britain’s Christian heritage’. The High Court controversially backed an anti-religious campaign to abolish official acts of worship.
Christians and politicians reacted with dismay after a judge overturned centuries of custom by outlawing a town hall in Devon from putting prayers on the formal agenda.
It prompted concern that it would pave the way for Parliament to abandon prayers before Commons and Lords business, mark the end of hospital and Forces chaplains, and could even lead to the abolition of the Coronation Oath, pledged by Kings and Queens taking the throne.
The ruling means prayers will not be allowed at the start of council meetings across England and Wales, though they may still be said before the official start.
Atheist former councillor Clive Bone started the case against Bideford town council in July 2010, claiming he had been ‘disadvantaged and embarrassed’ when religious prayers were recited at formal meetings.
Backed by the National Secular Society, he insisted that the ‘inappropriate’ practice breached the human right to freedom of conscience and discriminated against non-believers, making them feel ‘uncomfortable’.
The society claimed council meetings should be ‘equally welcoming to everyone in the local community’ and should therefore be ‘religiously-neutral’.
Mr Justice Ouseley, sitting in London, rejected the human rights and equality challenges. But he ruled that formal prayers at council meetings were unlawful because of a technicality in the Local Government Act 1972.
He said local authorities had no power to ‘say prayers or to have any period of quiet reflection as part of the business of the council’. Acknowledging the widespread importance of the case, Mr Justice Ouseley gave Bideford council permission to appeal.
Communities Secretary Eric Pickles described the ruling as ‘very illiberal’. He said: ‘The ruling is surprising and disappointing. Christianity plays an important part in the culture, heritage and fabric of our nation.’
He vowed to override the High Court ruling by bringing in the Government’s Localism Act, which would give councils the power to hold prayers at the start of meetings, as early as next Friday.
Verdict: Justice Ouseley, pictured, found the practice did not breach human rights but was unlawful
Simon Calvert, of the Christian Institute, said: ‘Prayers have been a part of council meetings for centuries, and many people, either for religious reasons or cultural reasons, see them as a positive part of our national life.
‘It’s a shame the courts have taken sides with those whose goal is to undermine our Christian heritage. It is high time Parliament put a stop to this assault upon our national heritage.’
‘This has got nothing to do with intolerance towards religion. Religious freedom is an absolute right and so is freedom from religion an absolute right, in my view.’
Clive Bone, the atheist former councillor who brought the case
Harry Greenway, a former Tory MP and ex-chairman of the National Prayer Breakfast, said: ‘If people do not want to attend prayers of this nature, they can stay away instead of meddling and busybodying with other people’s beliefs.
‘Non-believers are not harassed in this way by believers. Why cannot the non-believers show the same kind of tolerance?’
Mr Bone, who left Bideford council because of its ‘refusal to adjust’ its prayers policy, said: ‘I’m delighted. I’m not surprised, I expected to win.
‘This has got nothing to do with intolerance towards religion. Religious freedom is an absolute right and so is freedom from religion an absolute right, in my view.’
Keith Porteous Wood of the National Secular Society said: ‘We’re very pleased with the judgment.’
Officials at Parliament said the 1689 Bill of Rights meant the Commons and Lords decided their own business, so a legal challenge would fail.
Fury over moves to hold more British court cases in secret which will ‘sweep away centuries of fair trial protections’
Radical changes to the justice system will sweep away centuries of fair trial protections, senior lawyers and civil liberty campaigners warned yesterday. Justice Secretary Kenneth Clarke wants ministers to have the power to withhold evidence they deem ‘sensitive’ from civil court hearings.
But critics say the reforms will lead to a rise in the number of secret hearings and would deny defendants the right to challenge evidence used against them.
There would be more ‘Closed Material Procedures,’ where evidence is only disclosed to a judge, minister or ‘Special Advocate’ – a barrister authorised to work on national security cases.
Often, the minister exercising this new power would be a party to the case in a move which campaigners argue is an extraordinary conflict of interest.
The reforms, set out in a Green Paper, also give greater protection to government agencies in civil cases, meaning it would be easier for organisations like M15 and M16 to hide any wrongdoing.
Civil rights group Liberty has launched a ‘secret justice’ campaign to fight the plans, which it warns will have a damaging effect on investigative journalism.
It says the reforms could have led to evidence in high profile court cases such as the Paddington rail crash or the inquest into the death of Jean Charles de Menezes at Stockwell Tube station being withheld from lawyers and the public.
Liberty’s director Shami Chakrabarti said: ‘The worst scandals in any democracy are often uncovered by a combination of open courts and investigative journalism.
‘This Green Paper proposes to end a centuries’ old principle that no one – even a public body – is above the law. Future ministers would be granted sweeping powers to lock down embarrassing inquests and civil claims against the powerful. Victims of gross abuses of power, the public and the Press could be left in the dark forever. ‘It was bad enough when criminal courts were replaced with secret commissions in the name of national security. ‘Now the entire civil justice system might go the same way in the name of the “public interest”.’
In a blow to the Government’s plans, 57 of the country’s 69 Special Advocates have written to ministers describing the proposals as ‘unsupportable’.
They said: ‘Closed Material Procedures represent a departure from the foundational principle of natural justice that all parties are entitled to see and challenge all the evidence relied upon before the court and to combat that evidence by calling evidence of their own. ‘They also undermine the principle that public justice should be dispensed in public.’
Despite the opposition, Mr Clarke has described the reforms as ‘common sense proposals’ which would merely ‘better equip our courts to pass judgment in cases involving sensitive information’.
A letter to Paul Nurse
Prof. Nurse is a poor boy made good. Not rocking the boat is probably a lesson he learned on his way to the top
I am reproducing this letter with the permission of Professor Brice Bosnich, a retired chemist and a fellow of the Royal Society. He sent it to Paul Nurse on his election as president of the society in 2010. Nurse did not reply.
Dear Professor Nurse
I am a retired professor of chemistry in The University of Chicago. I also am a Fellow of the Royal Society. First, allow me to congratulate you on becoming president of the Society. You are about to live in interesting times, I am sure.
Whereas I am reluctant to intrude on your time, I feel compelled to draw your attention to a very serious matter related to the Royal Society’s position on man-made global warming (AGW).
Beginning with the presidency of Bob May and continuing during the tenure of Martin Rees the Society has put forward a scientific case for (catastrophic) AGW, has joined with other academies in urging governments to take drastic action to reduce atmospheric CO2 concentrations, and, on occasions, has behaved as if it were a propaganda arm for the alarmist cause, . No one objects to individual Fellows having any view they wish on this matter, political or scientific, but I believe the Society should exercise great care in its public pronouncements. It should, I believe, resist taking overtly political or advocacy positions. Cautious, balanced and informed scientific arguments should be presented, the political implications of which should be left to the politicians.
If one goes to the Royal Society Web site one finds an especially poor, in places inaccurate, case made for catastrophic AGW, . There is also a highly speculative report on ocean acidification by CO2, , which seems to be based on a single paper, , that purports to calculate the change in ocean pH from 1750 to present! A change of 0.1 pH change was calculated! On this basis the report goes on to describe all imaginable catastrophes. At about the same time the Society’s web page highlighted a paper about AGW and the shrinking sheep of St Kilda ! Then there was Bob May presenting an AGW lecture with the comprehensively discredited, , “hockey stick” graph as backdrop. I could go on.
How this state of affairs came about is a matter of speculation on my part. It is probable, however, that a group of committed Fellows persuaded the Society to take a position on AGW while the less conversant majority remained uncomfortably silent. Further, I fear the Society may have decided it was advantageous to blend its position with that of the existing government. I hope this is not the case.
Although I am not a climate scientist, I am sufficiently conversant with the climate science literature to be able to assess the issues accurately. My conclusion is that the case for catastrophic warming induced by man-made CO2 emissions is extremely weak (see for example, ). Allow me to encapsulate the issue, and forgive me if you are already familiar with the material that follows.
* Following the (global) Medieval Warm Period where the temperatures were similar to those presently recorded, the earth entered the Little Ice Age. Since the end of the Little Ice Age (about 1850) the earth has warmed intermittently. The actual amount of warming is controversial for technical and possibly other reasons. For surface temperatures recorded by thermometer measurements, the amount of warming is probably less than reported . There is, however, no dispute that some near surface atmospheric warming has occurred,  .
* Doubling the concentration of atmospheric CO2, which is projected to occur by the end of this century, will lead to an increase in temperature of about 1 degree C from the CO2 greenhouse effect. There is no dispute here. No one has suggested that a 1 degree C of “forcing” would be catastrophic.
* In order to get to the 2 to 4 or more degrees C increase by 2100 as claimed by the IPCC, one has to invoke large positive feedbacks. For the case of the feedback by water vapor, as an example, the initial(CO2 induced) warming would generate an increase in atmospheric water vapor, a greenhouse gas, which itself will increase the temperature which, in turn, would generate more water vapor and so on. There are other feedbacks, most notably clouds, which combined with water vapor represent about 90% of the greenhouse effect. Contrary to what the Society’s Web site asserts, there was no (predicted) upper atmosphere signature found for water vapor feedback during the recent warming. The feedback from clouds is poorly understood as acknowledged by the IPCC. There is, however, accumulating evidence which suggests that the total feedback from all sources is zero or possibly negative (see for example, ). The evidence for the negative feedback case is substantially more persuasive than the IPCC assertion that it should be large and positive.
* The only case that the IPPC makes for AGW is that they can’t think of anything else that could have caused the recent warming and that models can reproduce the warming. This reproduction is achieved by introducing arbitrary amounts of aerosols. These same models did not predict the recent 12 years of constant temperatures.
* Finally, there is an excellent correlation between the US postal rates since 1900 and global temperatures, . Thus the assertions that AGW is responsible for the shrinking sheep of St Kilda or the vanishing snows of Kilimanjaro or any other alarmist pronouncements do not establish that the warming is man-made. This should be obvious to Fellows of the Royal Society, many of whom have used such correlations to support the existence of catastrophic AGW.
The case for catastrophic warming rests solely on the sign and magnitude of the feedbacks. As has been often said, “Extraordinary claims demand extraordinary evidence”. The potential of catastrophic AGW is an extraordinary claim, but is without compelling supporting evidence. Because of the way that the AGW issue has been politicized together with the behavior of certain climate scientists, the reputation of science and the institutions that support it have suffered. Further, were catastrophic AGW to join the dreary parade of alarms that have punctuated the recent history of affluent societies, the consequences to science and the Society could be severe. It may take a long time before reputations are restored. It is, therefore, imperative for the Society to stay away from politics and advocacy of AGW or any other science based issue, no matter how beguiling the prospect may seem.
Below is the opening paragraph of a joint statement (2005) by several academies including RS and NAS. This statement urges governments to take action on AGW. I have reviewed it for accuracy and balance, see round bracketed highlighted comments. This has been done in order to illustrate the unease and frustration that I am sure many Fellows feel when they read these official pronouncements.
There will always be uncertainty in understanding a system as complex as the world’s climate (Correct, climate science is in its infancy). However there is now strong evidence that significant global warming is occurring (Is about 0.7 degrees C increase in 150 years evidence?). The evidence comes from direct measurements of rising surface air temperatures (No warming has occurred for the last 12 years and the recent rate of warming is about the same as the rate of rise for the period 1920 to 1940 when greenhouse gases were increasing more slowly, ), and subsurface ocean temperatures(No warming has occurred for 8 years, at least, , and sea temperatures have been varying up and down for at least 50 years, ), and from phenomena such as increases in average global sea levels(No significant change in the rate of rise of sea levels has occurred for at least 100 years,  ), glaciers retreating (Glaciers have been retreating and some reforming since the Little Ice Age, at least, , and there is no persuasive evidence to suggest that the retreat is accelerating), and changes to many physical and biological systems(Which ones, the sheep of St Kilda?). It is likely that most of the warming in recent decades can be attributed to human activities [IPCC 2001] (See above for this “evidence”). This warming has already led to changes in the Earth’s climate (Climate is defined as more than 30 years of weather, so what are they trying to say? That 0.7 degree C or so rise in temperature is an indication of climate change?).
Similarly, the most recent Royal Society statement, issued jointly with the Met Office and NERC, is replete with misleading and inaccurate assertions, .
Finally, I note that the Society has enthusiastically endorsed the central recommendations of the Stern Review, . As noted by William Nordhaus, “the (Stern) Review should be read primarily as a document that is political in nature and has advocacy as its purpose”. Moreover, Nordhaus makes a persuasive case that Stern has not got the economic assumptions right, especially on the crucial question of economic “discounting”, . The Nordhaus argument, placed in a wider context, is given in, , where it is noted that when “Prudential Handicapping” is abandoned for the “Precautionary Principle” there are no guiding criteria for an impossibly expensive journey in the endless pursuit of a zero risk world. A recent assessment of these issues offers a prescription for dealing with climate change, from whatever source, that drastically differs from that advocated by the IPCC, Stern and by the Royal Society, . These and other social science studies indicate that it would be wise for statements from the Society to stay strictly within the bounds of (physical) science.
I end with a quotation from Atte Korhola, a Professor of Environmental Change at the University of Helsinki:
When later generations learn about climate science, they will classify the beginning of the twenty-first century as an embarrassing chapter in the history of science. They will wonder about our time and use it as a warning of how core values and criteria of science were allowed little by little to be forgotten, as the actual research topic of climate change turned into a political and social playground.
This letter is being sent to Martin Rees and to John Pethica. I should be grateful if you were to pass it on to members of Council.