Doctors failing to diagnose rheumatoid arthritis patients
More than half of rheumatoid arthritis sufferers have to visit their GP three times before they are diagnosed as doctors are not being trained to spot the symptoms, a charity report claims.
Low diagnosis rates and a lack of understanding of rheumatoid arthritis by GPs are still rife three years after a report aimed at improving services for people with the condition, a survey by Arthritis Care found.
The charity more than half a million people in Britain who suffer from the condition are “systematically and appallingly let down by the NHS” with £8 billion a year being spent on services which are in “disarray”.
Most of the recommendations made three years ago in a Public Accounts Committee report aimed at improving rheumatoid arthritis care are yet to be implemented, the charity added.
More than nine in ten sufferers surveyed said the NHS was not doing enough to ensure rheumatoid arthritis is diagnosed early, while three quarters of doctors and health service managers said it is not sufficiently prioritised by the NHS.
Early diagnosis of the condition, where the body attacks its own joints resulting in severe pain and even disability, is key if protective treatment is to have any effect.
Rheumatoid arthritis affects 580,000 people in England and Wales and the number of cases is rising steadily due to the ageing population.
Arthritis Care questioned 131 patients and 42 doctors and commissioners in the last three months of 2011 to assess the state of NHS services for patients.
The charity called on the Government to introduce an action plan for arthritis to deliver the best available treatment and care to sufferers, with incentives for GP commissioners to deliver improvements.
Judith Brodie, Arthritis Care chief executive, said: “As the state of rheumatoid arthritis services has remained unchanged for three years, it is imperative that we take action now to improve care and services.”
The sheer number of immigrants has made it harder than ever for British parents to secure a place at a good primary school
For just over half a million parents this week is Terror Week, when the nation’s four-year-olds are allocated a place at primary school. In most countries, this is a dull formality. In Britain, it is anything but: gaming the system has become nothing short of a national obsession. Some atheist mothers will have spent years in the pews with their offspring, praying for nothing more than a school place. Others will have rented a second home near the catchment area, calculating that this is cheaper than going private. Many parents who refused to play this game will lose none the less. A handful will be told there is – at present – no place for their child at all.
This year the problem is worse than ever, with one in seven parents in England likely to be denied their first choice. Every child will eventually find a place but it may well be in a portable building in the playground. All the indicators suggest an even bigger pile-up in the next few years, so the nation’s supply of angry mothers will grow exponentially. If David Cameron thinks he has trouble with women voters now, then he should wait until the May 2015 election, by which time hundreds of thousands will have been refused their first choice of school by his Government.
All of this raises a basic question: where are Michael Gove’s new schools when you need them? The Education Secretary’s success story, so far, has been mainly about state secondaries being granted “academy” status. A great liberation to their teachers, no doubt, but it hardly broadens the choice available to pupils. When it comes to actual new “free schools”, set up from scratch, the story is less impressive. There were just two dozen of them last year and 70 more have been approved to open in September, half of which haven’t even found a building yet. Of these, just 21 are primaries. All of this is welcome, but England needs 410 new primaries a year, for the next four years, just to keep up with pupil numbers.
The size of Britain’s schools problem is rapidly outgrowing the size of Michael Gove’s solution. The Education Secretary has made much progress, and in less than two years has granted quasi-independent academy status to half of England’s secondaries. Yet he has failed in several critical areas. In opposition, Mr Gove spoke about bold new powers that would grant planning approval to any new school, sweeping aside council objections. Such powers have not emerged. Anyone wishing to set up a new school now needs permission from the very people intent on strangling the experiment at birth.
The Tories originally wanted the best academies to use their freedom to expand. Some attract six applicants for every place, so they could open a new wing, or even sponsor a new school. Or they could become chains, like the extraordinarily successful Harris Federation in London. But the schools have been denied the basic requirement for anyone who wants to expand anything: to be able to borrow money. They are told to wait until they secure a large cheque from a philanthropist (such as Lord Harris of Peckham) or to negotiate a large transfer of government funding. If businesses cannot borrow to expand, the economy does not grow. The same is true for schools.
Mr Gove has prevailed in his battle with the teachers’ unions. His real struggle lies in persuading the rest of Mr Cameron’s Government to help. The Treasury hates the idea of schools borrowing money to enlarge their capacity. The Communities Department lets councils blackball new schools simply on the grounds that parents would clog up the morning traffic. The Cabinet Office has failed to deliver the empty government buildings that Francis Maude once offered. And No 10 is failing to bang these heads together, or accept that the problem will be much worse for the class of 2015.
At the heart of this lies denial about the ongoing surge in immigration. The concerns, so widely felt throughout the country, were never driven by racism or xenophobia. It was more about the supply of GP clinics, houses or school places. Under the last government, a refusal to talk frankly about immigration mutated into a failure to consider its implications. Of the children who enrol in primary school this September, one in four will have a foreign-born mother (including, I should add, my eldest son). The implications of our multilingual baby boom were known about for years, yet preparations were not made.
The government machine has spent so long managing a decline in education that it cannot handle its expansion. The Labour years meant the closure of, on average, 110 schools each year, with teenagers being shoehorned into Grange Hill-style secondaries for bureaucratic convenience. Even today, the Department for Education arranges its statistics in a way that suggests there is no problem because there is, overall, a surplus of places. Under-filled schools vastly outnumber the popular ones. This, of course, is precisely the problem – bureaucrats hate opening new schools if there are places to fill in bad ones. But in the real world, parents want the best schools, and many will do anything, even fake a religion or a divorce, to secure a place.
This is not middle-class paranoia. A quick look at the CVs of Cabinet members shows that schooling still matters very much in Britain. England’s state schools may rank a lowly 18th in world league tables but our private schools are second. This staggering quality gap, the largest in the world except for Uruguay and Brazil, is reflected in the difference between state schools. The top tenth of England’s state schools do every bit as well as fee-paying schools, so a house in the right area is worth the extra money (typically £90,000) for those who can afford it. The infamy of the bottom tenth, the sink schools, requires no elaboration. This is why so many parents play the school places game: the stakes are terrifying high.
Once, Mr Gove hoped to usher in a new era where pupils would inform schools by text message if they had been selected, not vice versa. With so few new schools being set up, this power flip now looks impossible unless changes are made. This would involve a single school licensing authority, saying “yes” unless there is an extraordinarily good reason not to. It means putting pupils before ideology, so Liberal Democrat objections to profit-making schools are overruled. It means No 10 starting to function properly, and grasping the urgency of the situation. And it means making the Coalition’s most radical policy bolder still.
Immigration boom under Labour changed face of Britain faster than any major country except Italy, Oxford experts reveal
The immigration boom under Labour led to the face of Britain changing faster than any major nation except Italy, a study by an Oxford University think tank revealed.
During the five-year peak of the influx, the UK’s migrant population soared by 22 per cent – double the average of G8 countries, figures from the Migration Observatory show.
Over the past two decades, Britain’s foreign-born population has increased from 3.8million – or 7 per cent of the total population – in 1993 to almost 7million, or 12 per cent per cent in 2010.
During the same period, the number of foreign-born residents without British citizenship doubled from just under two million (4 per cent of the population) to over four million (7 per cent).
Net-migration – the number arrivals minus those leaving – increased from 564,000 during the five years from 1996-2000, to 923,000 in 2001-2005 and 1,044,000 during 2006-2010. In 2010, net-migration reached 252,000, its highest level for a single calendar year on record.
But it is the period between 2000 and 2005 – a period of an open border policy during and rapid expansion of the EU – that immigration really spiked.
Only Italy, which experienced a 44.6 per cent rise in immigration, saw a higher rate in the developed world.
Figures also show that as the global population has increased considerably in the last two decades, so too has the number of international migrants. The number has increased from 156million in 1990 to 214million in 2010.
The comparison with G8 countries compares other high-income nations this group, which also includes Russia, Italy, France, Canada, the U.S. Germany and Japan.
For all the G8 countries, with the exception of Japan, migrants are defined as foreign-born residents in the data. In the data for Japan, migrants are defined as foreign citizens.
Alp Mehmet, of pressure group Migration Watch, told Mail Online: ‘This underlines what we have been saying about Labour’s mass immigration policy. ‘It also shows why it will be so difficult to get immigration back down to sensible levels’
Red Ken: Just another Leftist hypocrite
The British Left are so attached to their dysfunctional socialized medicine system (the NHS) that they despise private hospitals. So when one of them uses a private hospital it is seen as letting the side down. But the NHS is so bad that the temptation to bypass them is strong. And the Labour candidate for Mayor of London has just done such a bypass.
The most egregious such bypass was by “Red Queen” Barbara Castle, during the Wilson government, who was famous for saying that it was “obscene to carve your way to a hospital bed with a checkbook”. But when her son got sick, guess where she sent him? And she sent him under a false name!
You will find no mention of that episode in Wikpedia or anywhere else much outside my writings but there is a 1975 newspaper article here which mentions her words on the matter.
I remember the episode well personally as I had just written a book on politics at the time. The internet has a short memory but I don’t
Despite her towering hypocrisy, Harold Wilson still elevated her to the peerage
Ken Livingstone’s campaign to regain the London mayoralty faced embarrassment last night after Labour peer Lord Sugar urged voters to reject him. Lord Sugar said that ‘no one’ should vote for Mr Livingstone, despite him being the official Labour candidate.
The damaging outburst came after Mr Livingstone was forced to admit using an unnamed private healthcare firm to carry out annual health checks unavailable on the NHS.
The revelation yesterday opens the former mayor up to accusations of hypocrisy, as he has vociferously campaigned against the Coalition’s ‘privatisation’ of the Health Service.
Shortly afterwards, Apprentice star Lord Sugar took to Twitter to tell his 1.8million followers: ‘I don’t care if Ed Miliband is backing Livingstone. I seriously suggest NO ONE votes for Livingstone in the Mayoral elections.’ He later added: ‘Livingstone must NOT get in on May 3.’
The intervention could amount to a breach of party rules, and will trigger calls for Labour leader Mr Miliband to discipline the business mogul, who served as enterprise tsar under Gordon Brown.
Earlier this week, in answer to a comment from a journalist that he was looking tired, Mr Livingstone insisted that he had lost a stone during his campaign against Tory incumbent Boris Johnson, and his doctor was pleased he was ‘so fit’. He said: ‘I’ve been having an annual medical for about ten years. This is the best it has ever been.’
A spokesman for Mr Livingstone later confirmed that the medicals were carried out by a private firm, saying: ‘Like many people he has an annual check-up from an external provider – if he ever needs to see a doctor for anything it is with his local GP, or with other NHS services.’
Just a few weeks ago, Mr Livingstone wrote: ‘The people of our capital city deserve top-quality care and demand our healthcare should not be broken up, sold off or be privatised by the back door.’
Earlier in the campaign for the May 3 election, Mr Livingstone was criticised for channelling his income through a private company to reduce his tax bills, despite describing people who use these kind of legal tax avoidance measures as ‘rich b******s’.
A spokesman for Mr Johnson said yesterday: ‘This is yet another example of Ken Livingstone’s hypocrisy. ‘Now we learn that while campaigning as a defender of the NHS he uses private healthcare.’
A Labour source said: ‘There is a long history of Alan Sugar and Ken Livingstone not being the best of friends. Lord Sugar wasn’t encouraging people to vote for any of Labour’s rivals. ‘Lord Sugar is a Labour peer but his views have always been very much his own.’
A spokesman for Mr Livingstone – who was once expelled from Labour after standing as an independent candidate in his victorious 2000 mayoral campaign – said: ‘Everyone knows that Ken and Lord Sugar aren’t that friendly.’
Lord Sugar also tweeted that he would not consider standing as mayor himself. ‘It’s been suggested I run for mayor,’ he wrote. ‘Not possible, too many commercial conflicts, no time, more to the point I would not know where to start.’
Two years ago Lord Sugar – or Sir Alan as he was known then – was tipped as a favourite to replace Mr Livingstone as the Labour candidate for the job. He was thought to be one of the only people likely to be able to oust Boris Johnson from the seat.
The Apprentice star and founder of Amstrad told the London Evening Standard at the time that he was flattered by the poll, but there were many conflicts with his numerous business interests.
Last week, Mr Livingstone was accused by his own party of crying ‘crocodile tears’ after it emerged that a political broadcast that made him weep used paid ‘supporters’ reading from a script.
The Labour mayoral candidate wept at a screening of his advert featuring 28 unnamed Londoners spelling out why the capital needed Mr Livingstone back in charge.
He had described the saccharine production as a ‘real tearjerker’. Labour leader Ed Miliband even patted his shoulder to console the former mayor as he rubbed his eyes during the screening on Wednesday.
In reality, Mr Livingstone had seen the film the night before, raising questions about why he was apparently caught off-guard. Last night Labour admitted that the ‘ordinary Londoners’ had actually been reading from a script.
They were also paid expenses for their time after the advertising agency BETC hired people from the street.
It is also believed one of the ‘actors’ is a paid-up member of the Labour Party. The advertisement was created by film-maker Johnny Maginn of Mustard Films.
Yet another false rape claim from Britain
Another product of moral collapse
A John Lewis sales assistant has been jailed for crying rape after becoming embarrassed by a sadomasochistic sex session she arranged with a stranger. Kirsty Sowden, 21, met the man she would go on to accuse of attacking her after advertising herself on a website for no-strings-attached encounters.
Although she was trying for a baby with her boyfriend at the time, she visited Andrew Boarer’s home and voluntarily participated in a sex session that involved her wearing a leather dog lead and being spanked.
Shortly after leaving the flat in Maidstone, Kent, however, she became racked by guilt and called police claiming she had been raped. She said a balding stranger in his 40s had raped her in a park after grabbing her arm as she left a gym in nearby Gravesend.
Sowden, met her victim online after advertising herself as a ‘BDSM princess’ – standing for Bondage, Domination and Sadomasochism – on a no-strings attached website.
Police eventually untangled the dominatrix’s web of lies and charged her with perverting the course of justice. The investigation had already cost nearly £14,000 and wasted a staggering 376 hours of police time. Sowden, of Northfleet, Kent, pleaded guilty and was jailed for 14 months when she appeared at Maidstone Crown Court on Monday
Sentencing, Judge Philip Statman said: ‘I see little sign of genuine remorse from you or, indeed, any real understanding of just how serious your actions have been. ‘Rape is a dreadful crime. False allegations of rape undermine the plight of genuine victims. The impact on your victim has been considerable.
‘What occurred in the privacy of his home, however much certain members of the community may find that reprehensible, has been made public. ‘He has had to move on in work. He has been made the subject of ridicule. The police inquiry involved many officers and many, many hours of police time at considerable expense.
‘You are a highly intelligent, well-educated young woman. At the time you were in good, full-time employment. But at the end of the day there is absolutely no doubt this offence passes the custody threshold.’
Sowden met Mr Boarer online in March last year. He was going through a divorce at the time and the pair arranged to meet at his flat. She agreed to strip off within five seconds of her arrival and the pair indulged in various sex acts, including intercourse. Mr Boarer also put her in a dog collar and lead and spanked her.
In evidence to the court, he described how Sowden had said her boyfriend would kill her if he found out. ‘They were trying for a baby and she felt guilty,’ he said.
Shortly after the shop assistant had left his flat, she contacted police claiming she had been raped. She described being attacked by a stranger as she left a gym in Gravesend, Kent, dragged into a park and sexually assaulted. Police arrested a man based on her description but soon realised he was innocent.
As a separate line of enquiry, police traced DNA samples which led them to Mr Boarer, who was arrested at his workplace in front of a large number of colleagues. He was questioned and held in a police cell before being released on bail.
It was only later that the police discovered an online exchange between the suspect and Sowden and realised that she had been lying.
Speaking after the case, DC Richard Dorey said that hundreds of hours and thousands of pounds were put into the investigation. He said: ‘The sentence of 14 months in jail is a fair sentence. It should stop people making unfounded allegations and is a very serious sentence for someone so young. ‘She was maintaining, up to the last minute, parts of the account. She didn’t seem to want to be completely truthful.’
Malcolm Gilbert, who works for rape charity Family Matters, today condemned Sowden’s actions. He said: ‘The position of the group is unanimous in condemning any woman, or indeed any man, who makes false allegations because of the harm to genuine rape victims, to undermine the whole business of rape. ‘It condemns all false allegations and they feel it should be pursued by the police in the way it has here.’
Lazy British police again
Not much in the way of standards there either
When Mike Inkley discovered burglars had ransacked the pavilion at his cricket club, he immediately rang the police. But he was shocked to be put through to a call centre and be told that officers would not come out to a ‘non-residential burglary’.
Instead, he was told, it could take up to two days before police could take the details of the crime – in a ‘telephone appointment’. To add to his anger, he was told not to go inside the pavilion and check if anything had been stolen until a scenes-of-crime officer had been dispatched, a process which could take up to 24 hours.
The response, from a force which has been told it needs to make savings of over £40million, will add to fears that property crime is increasingly being treated as a low priority. In the end, after the 50-year-old had told the call centre worker the response was unacceptable, officers were dispatched to the ground a few hours later.
Yesterday Mr Inkley said the call centre system risked undermining public faith in the police. ‘We want an officer to come round and tell us it’s all right and everything is under control – not speak to someone from a call centre 30 miles away. ‘It just lowers your confidence in what they do.’
The company director was walking his dog at Walton-le-Dale cricket club in Preston, where he is chairman, when he discovered steel doors had been forced open and cupboards ransacked.
He rang the new non-emergency 101 number from his mobile phone and was informed the force did not send officers out immediately for non-domestic burglaries.
He was told he could make a witness statement to the ‘telephone investigation unit’ in the next couple of days, and to keep out of the pavilion until a forensics officer had inspected it. After a member of staff from the call centre rang back, he insisted that someone was dispatched.
A scenes-of-crime officer duly arrived four hours after he reported the crime and a police officer two hours later.
Yesterday Mr Inkley described the policy of sending an officer out only if one was demanded as ‘lunacy’. ‘It just means criminals will continue doing those sorts of burglaries because they know they will never get caught.’
The thieves who broke in last week are thought to have been searching for keys to the club’s lawnmowers. In the end they left empty-handed, though not before causing £200 worth of damage.
Rachel Baines, chairman of the Lancashire Police Federation, said she sympathised with Mr Inkley. ‘Whatever the incident is, people want to see a police officer and I totally understand that,’ she said.
Lancashire Police said the telephone investigation unit had been introduced last November to resolve ‘less serious’ crimes more quickly. A spokesman said the employee had been wrong to tell Mr Inkley that it would not be possible to send an officer immediately. ‘If a victim of crime wants us to deploy to the scene then we will,’ he said. ‘We are investigating this burglary.’
He added that the call centre worker who told Mr Inkley an officer would not be available has subsequently been ‘spoken to’.
The U.K. and Europe’s Fracking Fissures
There’s a large new row developing in British politics — with potential for another major row between Britain and the European Union. For the last few months the “Green Agenda” of the Coalition government has been unraveling for one reason after another: the resignation of the ultra-Green fanatic, Chris Huhne, energy secretary and Liberal Democrat, over his being prosecuted for (in effect) committing perjury to conceal driving offenses; a rebellion by 100 Tory MPs opposed to building vast numbers of inefficient “wind farms” that disfigure Britain’s green and pleasant land; the government’s proposal, now likely to be withdrawn, of a “tax on aspiration” that would compel householders making any improvements in their homes to install additional and expensive insulation too; and, yesterday, the publication of an official report proposing to allow the technique of “fracking” to release the shale gas that apparently exists in very large quantities onshore and offshore Britain.
This controversy has been slowly developing because, before it causes a breach between the U.K. and Europe, it has already caused one between the Tory and Lib-Dem partners in the Coalition. As well as being the most pro-European party, the Lib-Dems are also the greenest. Almost all the measures now being re-considered by the government are their own pet schemes. But the costs of energy are rising so sharply for households, partly as a result of these policies — and “fuel poverty” is growing so rapidly — that the Lib-Dems can’t effectively defend them. And backbench Tories, recovering their moxie, are anxious to push onwards from an energy policy rooted in Greenery to one directed to getting as much cheap energy as securely as possible.
And that’s where the shale-gas revolution comes in. According to the geologists (as reported by Reuters), U.K. offshore reserves of shale gas could be as big as one thousand trillion cubic feet (tcf) compared to the country’s annual consumption of 3.5 tcf. Such figures are hard to grasp, but they apparently mean that Britain would regain its earlier North Sea oil status of being one of the main energy producers in the world. It would liberate Britain almost uniquely in Europe — almost because Poland too seemingly has vast shale reserves — from dependence on Middle East oil. Other things being equal — and assuming, as I do, that the shale gas revolution has not been overblown — Britain can look forward to a future of cheap and secure energy supplies for the foreseeable future.
So the balance of opinion in Britain is now shifting against the green agenda. If shale gas can be “fracked” cheaply, then it will undercut such “renewables” as wind power, however heavily they are subsidized — and it will also undercut coal and nuclear power. This shift is very good for Britain, of course, but it cuts against some very large domestic vested interests — all the renewable companies, landowners who rent out their land for wind farms, the Green movement, and not least the ideological interests of one of the governing parties. So the shift is in its early stages, and it will be some time, maybe not until after the next election, that it is fully reflected in a rational British energy policy.
That’s if the matter is decided in Britain by such outmoded methods as elections. In a posting on The Economist website by their British political columnist, Bagehot, the suggestion is made that British ministers and civil servants are proceeding very nervously on what to do about shale gas because they fear it might provoke a major row between Britain and the EU over science, technology, and the environment because of the European Union’s “irrational” Green-washed attitude to science, energy and the environment:
France has already put in place a moratorium on fracking, they note. Other continental governments may follow, and British sources draw nervous analogies with European hostility towards genetically-modified crops, which have seen draconian controls imposed on all manner of GMO crops (often amid ugly rhetoric about “American corporations” launching a “foreign invasion” of Europe’s pure and ancient fields), regardless of the scientific data. That could spell another row between Britain and the EU, if European-level regulators were to put hurdles in the way of British shale gas exploitation.
My own guess is that the British will be lucky here. They have Poland on their side already; the other Eastern Europeans could probably be brought around to support the British position by pointing out that Gazprom is the Greens’ most important ally on energy policy. That might be enough to derail any attempts to by the European Commission to extend the French ban on “fracking” over the whole of Europe.
Suppose, however, that I’m wrong and that such a prohibition does make its silent way through the tortuous maze of EU policy-making. Why should a sane British government pay much regard to it? Such a ban would have no merit — see the “irrational” comment in Bagehot’s account of how the EU regards science and energy policy. It would greatly damage a key British national interest. (Nothing surprising there, of course, since the proposed “Tobin tax” on international transactions would damage the City of London and the key interests of no other EU member-state, but alarming all the same.) It would strengthen Gazprom and Middle East oil producers, neither of whom has Europe’s interests in mind. And it would further institutionalize a Luddite approach to science, technology, and economics within European policy-making structures.
The fact that major policy makers in Whitehall are genuinely worried by this prospect — and that Bagehot plainly thinks their anxiety reasonable — testifies yet again to the fact that the British are under what Digby Anderson calls a “spell” on topics associated with the European Union (as they also are with the National Health Service.) A spell is an irrational attachment to some policy or institution despite its foolishness and damaging effects. It renders the spell-bound unable to act even when faced by a life-threatening danger. It’s becoming quite a common ailment. And if you look at President Obama’s energy policy — namely, railing against oil companies and speculators to divert attention away from his refusal to allow either new prospecting or new supplies from Canada — you’ll see that it’s quite catching.
Global cooling hits Britain
With the hills blanketed in white and the sky heavy with snow, it looks like the perfect setting for a Christmas card. Except this photograph was taken yesterday, after wintry showers wiped out our fragile spring.
The mercury dropped to around -2c (28f) overnight yesterday on high ground, although most of the snow had melted by late afternoon as temperatures rose to 7c (45f).
After the driest March for 59 years, April could now see above-average rainfall, despite levels being close to normal for the last two weeks. They picked up on Wednesday, when gales and showers battered the Midlands, the South West and the drought-hit South East, with an inch of rain falling in a couple of hours.
The Met Office predicts the first two weeks of May are likely to stay ‘unsettled’, with the prospect of chilly weather, more heavy rain and, in Scotland, snow. Yesterday a severe weather warning for rain was in force for the East, South East and Midlands.
The mercury fell to -7C in Scotland last week and the rest of the country struggled to get above freezing.
Last night, the Met Office has issued a severe weather warning for southern and eastern England today, with heavy downpours, hail and thunder likely for the second day running.
Jim Dale, a meteorologist at British Weather Services, told the Daily Express: ‘It’s likely that the first week of May will be poor.
But in spite of drought warnings, gales and storms yesterday hit the South West, South East and the Midlands as an inch of rain bucketed down in three hours. Hail and 50mph gales hit Cornwall, with trees felled and telephone and power lines toppled near Truro and some ferry services cancelled.