NHS managers ‘must support whistleblowers’ under constitution
This comes after some savagely retributive action by NHS managers against staff who complained of risky management that endangered patients. The disgraceful treatment of Dr Kim Holt in the “Baby P” matter is a case in point. And the bitch manager responsible for the retribution concerned has herself suffered no penalty or setback that I am aware of. Dr Jane Collins is STILL chief executive of Great Ormond Street Hospital. So this latest announcement is just candyfloss
Hospital managers must pledge to support whistleblowing staff, under changes being made to the NHS Constitution.
They must “ensure their concerns are fully investigated and that there is someone independent, outside the team, to speak to”, according to the Department of Health.
The changes, being announced today by Andrew Lansley, the Health Secretary, will also “add clarity around the existing legal right for staff to raise concerns about safety, malpractice or whistleblowing in the NHS”, said a spokesman.
They follow repeated concerns over staff being given ‘gagging orders’ to stop them raising concerns outside their trusts – in some cases stopping them from doing so with official regulators like the Care Quality Commission and the General Medical Council.
Mr Lansley said: “Today we have made it easier for staff to raise concerns about poor patient care.
“Whistleblowing will play an important part in creating a culture of patient safety, and this is why it has been added to the NHS Constitution.”
The NHS Constitution was introduced in 2009 to “bring together in one place details of what staff, patients and the public can expect from the NHS”.
In January the GMC issued new guidance aiming to ban doctors from signing gagging clauses with regulators, saying those who promoted or signed them were “breaking their professional obligations and putting patients, and their careers, at risk”.
However, last month the Government was criticised for handing a £160,000 contract for a helpline for NHS staff, for those who wanted to raise concerns, to Mencap.
The charity took the work over from the group Public Concern at Work, on the basis that it had to handle calls not only from NHS staff but also those from social care, without an increase in resources.
Mr Lansley also said on Thursday that he had asked the NHS Future Forum, an independent advisory group, to look at whether the NHS Constitution could be strengthened “to make sure it is working for the benefit of patients and staff”. It will be chaired by Professor Steve Field.
British headteacher ‘humiliated’ pupils by putting mug shots of those who failed their exams in rogues’ gallery on canteen wall
A bit crude. Penalizing children who are not very bright is unlikely to have any positive outcome
A head teacher has been forced to back down after pinning up a photo gallery that named and shamed pupils who failed to meet GCSE targets.
Thirty pupils with low results in mock exams had their names and pictures posted on the wall of the school canteen as motivation to work harder – but parents and pupils reacted angrily and it was taken down after just two days.
Chris Harris, head of Larkmead School in Abingdon, Oxfordshire, admitted the gallery had been ‘misconceived’ but insisted the intention was not to ‘name and shame’.
He said: ‘It was done out of a desire to support and help them, not to humiliate. The intention was good but it was clearly having the opposite impact. ‘I genuinely regret any untoward feelings we have created.’
The pupils were featured in the rogues’ gallery if their grades were borderline for meeting the Government’s GCSE performance target – five A* to C grades including English and maths.
Mr Harris said a similar wall chart, with every pupil grouped according to their attendance and without photographs, had led to increased attendance. Teachers will explain the decision to put the chart up to pupils at an assembly tomorrow.
One mother, 38, who did not want to be named, said her 15-year-old daughter had been left humiliated at her inclusion on the gallery of underachievers. ‘This could be seen as bullying people to get higher grades,’ she said. ‘The school should be ashamed. They shouldn’t let the children become statistics.’
Melinda Tilley, Oxfordshire County Council cabinet member for schools and improvement, said: ‘I am sure they did it in good faith and I am sorry it has backfired. ‘It was probably meant as a wake-up call and somebody has taken it the wrong way.’
David Lever, chairman of governors at Larkmead, said: ‘The school has an excellent reputation and it is very keen to do the best for all the students and support them. ‘Chris is an excellent headteacher and I have total confidence in him.’
Gwain Little, secretary of Oxfordshire National Union of Teachers, said: ‘It is important when there are children underachieving that we look at supportive ways of tackling it.’
He said there was too much pressure on schools to perform and move up the league tables, adding: ‘It is unsurprising it sometimes filters down into the school itself.’
Mike Curtis, Oxfordshire branch secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, said the motive would have been to encourage the pupils. But he added: ‘In most schools we try to celebrate the successes and not highlight the failures.’
Paracetamol (Tylenol) should be prescription only
I agree entirely. I have long said that it is far more dangerous than aspirin yet aspirin seems to be out of fashion. In the pharmaceutical corridor at my local supermarket there is a great range of painkillers but you have to look hard to find the little corner where they have a small amount of aspirin for sale
The family of a young mother who died after taking too many paracetamol tablets to help cope with pain following routine surgery have called for the drug to be prescription only.
Paracetamol Tablets, health, pills
Single mum Desiree Phillips, 20, was buying the painkillers over the counter and had upped her dose to “a few extra tablets” a day, an inquest heard. The talented singer was found unconscious next to a pack of the tablets at the home where she lived with her 11-month-old son.
Desiree was rushed to hospital where doctors diagnosed liver failure due to paracetamol poisoning. She was transferred to a specialist hospital for a liver transplant operation but died when it failed.
Desiree had auditioned for X-Factor and was hoping for a career in showbusiness after recording an album of seven songs.
After the hearing her grandfather Desmond Phillips, a chef, said: “This shows that Paracetamol should be prescription only. “It can be a very dangerous drug. “If a painkiller is that dangerous, it should be prescribed. Cigarettes have a label saying “smoking kills” but paracetamol packets don’t look dangerous. “Desiree was taking a staggered dose – only one or two a day but before we knew it she had done her self terrible liver damage.”
Mr Phillips told the hearing: “Desiree’s death was sudden, tragic and unexpected. “She’s had routine surgery for lumps in her breasts which were not cancerous. “Afterwards she was in a lot of pain – we had to look after her baby because it hurt her too much to hold him. “She had taken paracetamol to ease the pian – she was taking a few too many over the daily dose but we never expected this to happen.”
Blonde Desiree, of Llanelli, West Wales, was found passed out by her new boyfriend Andrew Laycock. Mr Laycock told the inquest: “I was concerned because I’d not had any texts from Desiree so I went around to the house. “She was curled up on the sofa and I could see she’s been sick. There were packets of paracetamol there.
“I called an ambulance and she was rushed to hospital. “A doctor told me it was serious so I waited through the night with her.”
The inquest, in Llanelli, heard Desiree died on August 26 last year after being transferred to Birmingham’s Queen Elizabeth hospital.
The cause of death was liver failure caused by paracetamol toxicity and the inquest heard there were high levels of painkillers in her bloodstream.
Carmarthenshire Coroner Mark Leyton recorded a narrative verdict. He said: “Desiree was using paracetamol for pain relief and may have been exceeding the normal dose. “But it remains unclear whether it was a built up or whether she took a large single dose.”
Desiree’s 18-month-old son Jayden is being cared for by her family.
Desiree’s mother Ayshea, 39, said: “Desiree was beautiful and had an infectious personality, she was always bubbly and we were always having a laugh. “She loved Jayden, she couldn’t do enough for him. He doesn’t deserve to be growing up without a mum because of this.’
A Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency spokesman said: ‘Paracetamol is a safe and effective painkiller when used correctly and when dosage recommendations are followed. ‘Every pack has a warning about overdose and instructions not to take more than eight tablets in any 24-hour period.’
A “human-rights sceptic” and proud of it
Anyone who values liberty should be a card-carrying ‘sceptic’ of the European Court of Human Rights
When Shami Chakrabati, director of British lobby group Liberty, appeared on BBC Radio 4’s Today last week to argue against proposed reforms that would see far fewer cases going before the European Court of Human Rights, she branded her opponent, Dominic Raab MP, a ‘human-rights sceptic’. Such is the confidence of the human-rights lobby today that it has adopted a tactic established by climate-change activists: accuse your opponent of having committed a thought crime with their arguments, which they will then – as Raab did – be forced to deny vehemently .
It is time that such swaggering confidence was punctured. The human-rights framework that has developed in Europe, including the UK, over the past 60 years – built on the European Convention on Human Rights – is a dehumanising, anti-democratic system of law, deserving to be bulldozed at the earliest opportunity. It is time that liberal opponents of the human-rights system followed in the proud tradition established by homosexuals and hip-hop artists by re-appropriating the language used to keep them down: Sista, it’s time liberals were proud to be ‘human-rights sceptics’.
And I mean real, proper, balls-in-hand sceptics. It’s time that the acceptance of human rights as our standard for freedom is interrogated with a view to exposing its illiberal assumptions. Of course, the idea mooted by the UK Liberal-Conservative government predictably falls short. The reforms, to be debated at an international conference in Brighton next month, propose that no case would be considered by the European Court unless a national court has ‘manifestly made an error in its interpretation of the convention’, or if the case ‘raises a serious question about the way the convention is interpreted or applied’. The proposals follow high-profile cases in which the government has been prevented from doing what it wants to do by the European Court. Most recently, the wigged up saviours of humanity in Strasbourg have prevented the deportation of radical Muslim cleric Abu Qatada and forced the UK government to consider giving prisoners the right to vote.
You don’t have to be a little Englander, or even right wing, to recognise that it is an affront to democracy that unelected and completely unaccountable judges, who have absolutely no democratic mandate, are able to override the decisions of elected representatives. It is appalling that European judges can make significant political decisions over a body of citizens across Europe to whom they will never have to answer.
But there is a more fundamental reason that liberals should be sceptical of human-rights law: because it makes us all less free. Human rights are not ‘rights’ in a liberal sense at all. They bear no resemblance to the ‘rights’ fought for by the radical liberals of the English Civil War, or the French and American revolutions, which sought to limit the power of the state and protect the autonomy of citizens. Instead, human rights treat people as fundamentally vulnerable and in need of state protection. This view of human vulnerability, in the eyes of the human-rights lobby, justifies the granting of absolute power to the state to set the boundaries of freedom.
Take, for example, the ‘right to a private and family life’ protected under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights. The courts will not consider a claim under Article 8 unless it is convinced in the courtroom that you have a ‘family life’ worth protecting. How the courts have defined ‘family life’ for the purposes of Article 8 is laughably antiquated. In 2002, the courts ruled that ‘family life’ does not exist where a relationship between parents and their grown-up children is ‘only emotional’, in that the children are no longer economically dependent on their parents. Neither are unmarried parents likely to be considered a family, unless they maintain sufficient levels of contact with their children. How can any ‘liberal’ support the idea that your family life is only worthwhile if it conforms to what the state decides a family should look like?
Or take Article 10, which purports to protect our freedom of expression. Of course, the very concept of ‘freedom of expression’ owes its existence to radical liberals like John Stuart Mill and Voltaire, who argued that there can be no exceptions to free speech, otherwise you do not have free speech at all. But human-rights lawyers will tell you that Article 10, along with most other human rights, is a ‘qualified right’ because there is a long list of conditions under which the state can interfere with it. This list includes where it is necessary in the ‘interests of public safety’ or for the ‘protection of health or morals’. Such broad qualifications mean that as a means of limiting state power, ‘qualified’ human rights are all but useless.
In fact they are worse than useless. History has shown that this qualified, state-sanctioned notion of freedom makes human rights a force in opposition to the civil liberties fought for by the radicals of the past. Since the European Convention on Human Rights was made directly applicable in UK law by the Human Rights Act 1998, it has approved the introduction of reams of draconian anti-terror legislation, including new powers of surveillance under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 that give local authorities increased powers to spy on their citizens. The Human Rights Act has also allowed new legal bans that limit how we can use public space. Rather than promote freedom, human rights have fostered an environment in which state interference has become commonplace.
This is why anyone who believes in freedom should be a card-carrying, philosophical ‘sceptic’ of the European Court of Human Rights. We should be sceptical of unelected judges making political decisions; sceptical when human-rights lawyers tell us we are vulnerable plebs in need of the state’s protection and, perhaps most importantly, sceptical of the very ideological foundation of the human-rights framework: the idea that the state should decide for us what freedom looks like.
British law doesn’t give a damn about fathers
By Louis De Bernières
Some years ago, I was outside a pizza restaurant when a young woman turned up, pushing a pram. She was preceded by a small boy who must have been about four years old. He stopped at the door, whereupon she said: ‘Well, open the f***ing door, you little s**t.’ I think my disillusionment with the idea that there was something sacred, sublime and beautiful about mothers and motherhood began on that day.
Shortly after, I spent some years working in a truancy centre, where we tried to give a little general education to children who had missed years at school. In many cases, it was clear that the reason for these absences had been mothers who kept them at home either because the women were lonely or because they needed the children as babysitters.
The point is that while there are many good mothers in the world, there are plenty of bad and often abusive mothers, too, yet we still have a Family Justice system that prizes mothers and motherhood, but devalues fathers.
When David Cameron wrote an article in the Sunday Telegraph one Father’s Day, he made a point of attacking absent fathers. I snarled with contempt and threw the paper across the room. He clearly had no idea that a very high proportion of fathers are absent because they are forced to be so by vindictive and possessive mothers, and the family (in)justice system that backs them up.
David Cameron has young children, and he ought to consider what it might be like, if, God forbid, his marriage ever ended, to find that the courts are against him — and that any orders they made giving him access to his children were unenforceable.
He might win the right to have them for half the time, but if Samantha withheld access to the children, there would be absolutely nothing he could do about it, except apply for another order she could ignore.
Judges of both sexes are the kind of people who have never had to change a nappy in their lives, and don’t see why any man would want to. They also seem to have a strangely warped moral sense.
Now that family (in)justice is under review, any male MPs with small children ought to take note of what might be done to them the moment their marriage or relationship goes wrong, as mine did two years ago.
Since then, as patron of Families Need Fathers, I have received many letters of support, many of them telling dismal and heartbreaking stories.
The surprising thing is that most of them come from grandmothers. They write about their sons’ repeated breakdowns, caused by being separated from their children, or about how children are brainwashed to reject their fathers. This is called ‘parental alienation’ by those in the know.
I have had letters from paternal grandparents who are desperate with grief, because ever since their grandchildren were abducted (as they see it, and so do I), they have never seen them again.
Lest I seem misogynist, I should say that the passion you have for your children is the most powerful and overwhelming emotion you can have, and the behaviour of some mothers is entirely explicable because of this.
One of the reasons I became a father was that a friend of mine told me that until you have had children, you know nothing of human love. I have since found out that he was right.
The problem is that when you go through a break-up, this extreme passion results in an equally extreme selfishness with respect to sharing them. If I had my way, I would have my children all the time. I had a vision of how their childhood was going to be, and I was not going to give it up. The trouble is that your ex feels the same.
Some people resort to dirty tricks, one of the commonest and most successful of which is to accuse the other parent of sexual abuse or violence. The authorities will take several years failing to investigate, during which time the accused will be allowed little or no contact with the children.
A judge is then equally likely to rule that the children have got used to the separation from their parent, and should not be disturbed by having it reversed. It is not illegal or punishable for someone to accuse you falsely in this way, and nor is it illegal for a solicitor to suggest it as a tactic.
The courts are seemingly unaware that women are almost as likely to be violent as men, and so the same accusations against them are less likely to be believed. As I once had a girlfriend who attacked me every time she got drunk, I am not inclined to fall for any myths about the gentler sex.
Another dirty trick commonly employed by mothers is to move a long way away and take the children with her. In this way, while a man may have the right to have the children three days a week, if the mother has moved to the other end of the country, or even abroad, it makes fatherhood impossible.
British Family Law doesn’t, in short, give a damn about men. A judge in Cambridge told me that he was appalled by how often men were simply treated as sperm donors and cashpoints. The more you can withhold the children from a father, the more maintenance he has to pay because the mother — having turned herself into the primary carer — is less likely to be able to work, and will have more costs to bear.
There seems to be little expectation that mothers should make a financial contribution, even though we all know mothers who successfully go out to work or run their own businesses, and despite school hours meaning it’s perfectly possible to get part-time work. Middle-class mothers will be relieved to know they are considered too delicate to have to go and stack shelves in Tesco like everyone else. There is, therefore, a very strong financial incentive to make sure that fathers have their children as little as possible.
A big part of the problem with Family Law, as practised at present, is that it is adversarial, and this has given rise to hordes of lawyers who exist to exploit the hurricane of emotions that overtakes you.
They raise the level of aggression and acrimony, and some of them will clean you out of every penny you have. They are masters of delay and of creating new things for you to argue about and hate each other for, and the vituperation and litigation will not end until one of you cannot pay them any more.
My solicitor was agreeable to the idea of mediation right from the start, and I estimate that her charges came to about one-third of what my ex had to pay. My solicitor and I were open-mouthed with amazement when, at one hearing, they turned up with three lawyers.
Early on in the break-up, I found myself receiving orders from these enemy solicitors, who seemed to have a fantasy that they actually had some authority over me. I was to have the children every other weekend, and the weekend was to begin on Saturday morning and end early on Sunday evening. I was not to go and help out in my son’s nursery during the early days, when that was the only way I could get to see him.
I said to my solicitor: ‘Why can’t I just go and kidnap them back?’ But I was advised not to get involved in open warfare.
Even so, I am not the kind of person who reacts kindly to being told what to do by people who knew neither me nor my children, and who, I believe, just wanted my head as another trophy.
Their firm’s propaganda clearly displays their pride in duffing over the eminent or rich. They began a prolonged war without it ever occurring to them to ask my ex if she thought she was really doing the best or the right thing.
Luckily, the judge in Norwich wasn’t going to take any nonsense. The first question he asked was ‘What about a process of reconciliation?’ The second thing he said was that, with all respect, lawyers were part of the problem, and why didn’t we do everything by mediation?
We did sort out the sharing of the children by mediation, which turned out to be quick, easy and cheap, although painful at times. During the inevitable rows, the mediator just looked out of the window until we had finished.
My ex did not want to deal with finances by mediation, however, and that became a fantastically long and expensive ordeal that ultimately took no account whatsoever of the fact that a writer’s income fluctuates wildly from year to year.
The general public may not know that family law is ‘judicial’. That is, it is made up by judges as they go along. There is no proper code of practice and no proper code of laws, except that judges tend to follow previous rulings.
You are faced with a situation in which you and your solicitor have no idea what the likely outcome is, because, as I was often told: ‘It all depends on the judge. You might be lucky, and you might not.’
The judge in Norwich I have already described. The one in London dealing with the question of finance was mainly starring in her own show, immensely enjoyed her own robust humour, did not let me speak at all and did not let my barrister finish a sentence.
So what is to be done? Any review of family law has to take account of the fact that times have changed. Fathers now do things that only mothers used to do. We enjoy it, we want to carry on doing it and we want to remove the anomaly and injustice involved in the judicial habit of thinking that mothers count and fathers don’t.
Many countries have equality as a default position, and I have not heard of this causing any problems. Children are sometimes annoyed about having to live in two places at once, but that is all it is — a bit of an irritation.
I’d be mildly vexed if I was halfway through a jigsaw puzzle and had to leave it at one house to go to the other, just as I am certainly vexed when I discover that all my children’s socks have disappeared because they are at their mother’s house.
Women continue to struggle for equal rights in the workplace, and I have always supported them in this, ever since I became interested in feminist issues in the Seventies.
Women were demanding that men should take more of a share of domestic responsibilities, so that their talents could flourish in the wider world. Well, we have — and a lot of us have grown to love it.
I have my children half the time now, and I only feel truly happy when I have them in the house. The love exchanged between us makes any other kind of love a bit of a sideshow, which in some ways is a pity, but I wouldn’t change it.
My ex and I live harmoniously not very far apart, and the more the legal horrors recede into the distance, the easier it becomes to get along. A pleasant friendship and companionship has reappeared, which help me to push away the anger and resentment that still frequently perturb me.
There was, however, a time when I was utterly bereft. For some months, I was helpless with rage and frustration and an overwhelming sense of injustice, always aware that any extreme expression of my despair would inevitably be used against me in order to show that I was unstable. Of course I was unstable! Isn’t that normal when you’ve been thrown into Hades? I am very surprised that there are not more murders and suicides relating to parents separating, although there are many such.
I was only able to carry on because I never gave up hope, and I knew that the most important thing was to give the children a good future.
I was also given a cause to fight for. Our children, their fathers and their fathers’ relatives have got to have rights enshrined in law, because our pains and pleasures, our joys in our children, are as pure and profound as those of mothers and their relatives. The children need all of us.
On Mother’s Day next weekend, I hope David Cameron publishes an article in a newspaper pointing out that it is more often fatherless children that become delinquent, not motherless ones.