Elderly denied NHS care can sue: Ministers will outlaw age discrimination by hospitals
Denying treatment to Health Service patients because they are too old is to be outlawed. From October, the elderly will be given the right to sue if they have faced age-discrimination by NHS staff.
Those refused operations, tests and scans routinely offered to younger patients will be able to take legal action against individual members of staff or trusts, ministers will announce today.
Patients – or their relatives – will also be able to go to court and claim compensation if they have been treated without dignity on hospital wards.
The measure comes amid mounting evidence that the elderly are routinely being refused treatments for cancer, heart problems and strokes because of their age. Doctors have admitted that they often make judgments that are based on a patient’s date of birth before even seeing them.
And a spate of damning reports have revealed how the elderly are routinely left hungry, dehydrated and in soiled clothing on NHS wards as they struggle to make themselves heard.
Care Services Minister Paul Burstow will say today: ‘We know that older people are not always treated with the dignity and respect they deserve because of ageist attitudes. This will not be tolerated. There is no place for age discrimination in the NHS or social care.
‘Our population is ageing as more of us live longer. The challenge for the NHS is to look beyond a person’s date of birth and meet the needs of older people as individuals.
‘I have heard numerous stories from people who feel they have been discriminated against.’ The Government has made an amendment to the Equalities Act that will make it illegal for NHS staff to assume patients are too old for care.
There will, however, be cases where elderly patients are just too frail for certain high-risk operations or treatments such as chemotherapy.
But under the new law, doctors and other NHS staff will have to carry out proper consultations and take into account the patient’s fitness and health before making a judgement.
Mr Burstow said he knew of a woman of 84 whose doctor had refused her surgery to repair a leaky valve in her heart. He said: ‘She asked if she could have this fixed and the doctors said “What are you bothered about, at your age?”. ‘This is exactly the kind of discrimination we want to rule out.’ He said the woman was finally getting the treatment she needed.
The Mail has long called for an improvement in the care of patients in old-age as part of our Dignity for the Elderly campaign.
Last night Michelle Mitchell, director of Age UK, said: Discrimination based on your date of birth is as indefensible in 21st century Britain as prejudice on the basis of race, gender, disability or sexual orientation.
‘We hope the new law which will apply to the NHS, social care and other services will prevent older people being denied proper treatment because of their age. It sends a clear message to service providers that discrimination law will in future also protect older people.’
The amendment was first put forward by Labour by the then Health Secretary Andy Burnham.
The age discrimination cases will be heard by county courts and if a judge rules in a patient’s favour they may be entitled to hefty compensation payouts.
IVF treatment will be exempt from the new rules because it is not as effective for older patients.
Critics will claim that the proposals could become a ‘lawyer’s charter’ as firms seek to exploit a lucrative new market.
However, last year a report by the National Cancer Intelligence Network found that women with breast cancer in their seventies and eighties were far less likely to be offered surgery than those in their fifties.
Experts said doctors often just looked at patients’ dates of birth in their notes and drew up treatment plans without even seeing them.
And NICE, the NHS watchdog, has warned that the elderly with hip fractures are often regarded as ‘low priority’ by staff. Last June the organisation claimed the operations were frequently carried out by junior doctors rather than senior consultants.
There is also particular concern about the care for elderly patients with dementia. Experts warn that thousands are never given a proper diagnosis because doctors simply view it as an inevitable sign of old age.
More pseudo-universities for Britain
Look forward to the University of Basket Weaving
Small specialist colleges will be given new powers to become universities in the biggest expansion of higher education in 20 years, it was revealed today.
Institutions with just 1,000 students – including 750 taking degree courses – will be able to win the right to full university status under new plans, the Government announced.
Previously, colleges could only apply for the title if they had at least 4,000 students, with 3,000 taking degrees.
The move – outlined by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills – is expected to lead to the biggest expansion of the sector since the early 90s when the Conservatives converted dozens of polytechnics into full universities.
But the reforms prompted fears that ministers may be diluting the university brand.
Prof Michael Farthing, vice-chancellor of Sussex University and chairman of the 1994 Group, which represents research universities, said: “There should of course be scope for new and emerging institutions to gain the title of university, but we should resist moves to devalue the title through indiscriminate use.
“Not only would this let down institutions that work hard to develop the research and teaching traditionally associated with university status, it could damage the global reputation of UK higher education as a whole. “
The plans were confirmed in the Government’s formal response to the Higher Education White Paper, which was published last summer.
Ministers insisted that tight controls would be imposed to ensure that the new title only applied to specialist institutions with a strong track record of good teaching.
It is believed the university name would only apply to a small number of colleges, some of which specialise in areas such as agriculture, teacher training and the arts.
Institutions given new powers to apply include Norwich University College of the Arts, the Arts University College Bournemouth, University College Falmouth, Newman University College in Birmingham, Harper Adams University College in Shropshire and the Royal Agricultural College in Gloucestershire.
The move comes just months before tuition fees are due to almost triple to a maximum of £9,000 a year.
Ministers are keen to create a more diverse higher education sector to coincide with the change – giving more people access to institutions with the full university title.
David Willetts, Universities Minister, said: “It is right to remove the red tape stopping good quality, smaller higher education providers calling themselves a university.”
Andy Westwood, chief executive of GuildHE, which represents a number of smaller specialist institutions said: “The Government’s reduction in the qualifying threshold for university title represents the correction of a long-held anomaly.
“Smaller institutions have long offered greater agility, smaller classes, stronger graduate employment and better retention rates.”
The document also confirms that plans for further education colleges and private institutions to be subject to tight controls on the number of students – funded through Government-backed loans – that each one can recruit.
Is healthy eating making you miserable? Flax seeds, bean sprouts and ricemilk may be what the nutrition Nazis WANT you to eat, but experts are warning the results can be life-wrecking…
Attending a friend’s hen party in a restaurant a decade ago, I found myself accosted by a well-known socialite. ‘You’re drinking white wine?’ she asked, scandalised. ‘But it has no health benefits whatsoever! You should have red wine — it’s full of antioxidants.’
The idea that you could drink wine for pleasure rather than for its nutritional value was clearly something that hadn’t occurred to her. At the time, I found her attitude hilarious. Now it’s ubiquitous.
An increasing number of diet-obsessed women are evaluating everything they eat based on the ‘goodness’ that a specific food contains. It’s been labelled ‘nutritionism’ — instead of simply eating foods because we like them, we construct meals based around the nutrients that we hope to get out of them.
Mary McCartney, photographer daughter of Paul, and author of a new vegetarian cookery book, recently described her usual breakfast:
‘I make myself a disgustingly healthy smoothie every morning. I see it as an insurance policy — if I’ve had something virtuous for breakfast, it doesn’t matter so much if things go a bit haywire later on.
I blend one spoonful of Amazing Grass Green Superfood Powder, one scoop of whey protein, one cup of rice milk, one spoonful of Omega 3-6-9 Oil and a handful of flax seeds with a banana.’ It’s less an alternative to a slice of toast and Marmite, and more a chemistry experiment.
So when did eating well become so complicated and so joyless?
As Michael Pollan, author of the bestselling In Defence Of Food, has pointed out, humanity has been feeding itself successfully for millennia, but now that the scientists have got involved, our relationship with what we eat has altered.
We now wait to be told what we should eat rather than decide what we’d like to eat. But, ironically, if you’re cutting out whole food groups in your quest for vitality and longevity — for example, by becoming a a raw food-munching vegan— then you might actually be making yourself miserable by missing out on essential mood-boosting, serotonin-rich foodstuff.
Nutrition therapist Ian Marber even warns that obsessing about whether food is healthy or unhealthy may actually be one of the reasons you are getting fatter. He says: ‘The trouble with dividing up foods into “good” and “bad” is that people think if something’s good for you, they can eat as much of it as they like. But all food is fattening if you eat enough of it.’
Actress Lysette Anthony, 47, became a victim of nutritionism while living in L.A., its spiritual home. ‘I was fantastically neurotic about what I ate,’ she says. ‘I used to go to a juice bar every morning and pay a ridiculous amount to drink ground-up blades of grass.
‘Then I had to sit very still for five minutes so I wouldn’t be sick. I loathed it. I also ate egg-white omelettes to avoid the cholesterol in the yolk, which is an incredibly boring way to eat. It made my life a misery.’
Now she’s back in the UK and starring in Lady Windermere’s Fan in Manchester, she finds she needs to eat four meals a day to cope with the demands of the role.
She breakfasts on toast, has avocado sandwiches for lunch, protein and vegetables for dinner — ‘You can’t eat carbs before you put on a corset!’ — then whatever she likes once the curtain comes down.
‘I’ve gone back to the good old adage of having a little of what you fancy,’ she says, ‘and I’m fighting fit as a result.’
But she hasn’t quite shaken off her belief in nutritionism. ‘I still force myself to eat lots of red cabbage because it’s anti-inflammatory,’ she admits.
By contrast, Marber says: ‘I never look at food and think: “Ooh, that’s a good source of fibre or Vitamin C.” I eat it if I want to and I don’t add up the calories.’
He believes that by focusing on the nutrients in food rather than on the food itself, we have lost touch with our instinct for what we should be eating. ‘People have forgotten food is a source of nourishment and pleasure. It’s supposed to be delicious.’
Would he eat a cream cake? ‘Of course — just not after every meal. It’s all about balance. We in the West are lucky to have this choice. Many have little food or fewer choices. It seems a little ungrateful not to enjoy a more relaxed diet.’
Windy British bishop defeated by public opposition
The Right Reverend Michael Langrish, the Bishop of Exeter, claimed his staff had been subjected to ‘outright verbal abuse’ over the plans to erect two turbines in three North Devon communities.
Campaigners claimed victory saying they were ‘thrilled’ at their ‘David and Goliath victory’ but were saddened that the debate had turned sour.
The proposal, which will now be dropped, was estimated to have generated a potential £50,000 a year.
The Diocese of Exeter was among the first in the country to trial the approach to improve its green credentials but the U-turn could now halt a wave of applications across the country.
A letter from the bishop was read out to congregations in Chittlehampton, Black Torrington and East Anstey in North Devon during services on Sunday.
He apologised that communities were not consulted earlier in the process but condemned what he claimed was ‘hostility and aggression’ disproportionate to the plans.
He said clergy and officers had been subjected to ‘hostility’, ‘outright verbal abuse’, and ‘abusive and bullying tactics’.
The Bishop said: “I, and many of my colleagues, have received very unpleasant letters and those who have attended meetings in a genuine effort to explain the thinking behind our proposals have been shouted down and called liars.”
But he said the diocese remained committed to reducing its carbon footprint whilst protecting rural Devon.
Peter Wood, chairman of East Anstey parish council, claimed a public meeting had been ‘swamped’ with ‘pushy’ turbine protesters from outside the parish.
“There was wrongdoing on both sides,” he said. “The diocese did not consult properly but I’m saddened that we can’t debate this sensibly, with reason and respect.
“I think people were rather intimidated to speak in favour of it.”
Richard Hopton, who lives 180 metres from the proposed Chittlehampton turbine site, said: “I’m thrilled that the Church has seen the light and done the decent thing. “It’s very sad that, according to the bishop, this has descended into abuse but I’m afraid it’s an emotive issue and people get wound up.”
The barrister and journalist said he had not been party to the abuse and had only heard ‘robust’ questioning at meetings. But he added: “This is a great moment – it’s a David and Goliath victory. The Church is an enormous institution and it’s a very large landowner – we have to fight. “This is a good day for Devon but it’s a great day for the rest of the country too. Hopefully we have pulled a wedge out from under the bottom of the door.”
Enoch Powell still speaks to us today
Charles Moore reviews “Enoch at 100”, edited by Greville Howard
Enoch Powell was, until the rise of Margaret Thatcher, the most famous politician in Britain. This was because of his “Rivers of Blood” speech in April 1968, in which he warned of the effects of mass immigration. No single speech since the war has caused greater controversy.
At the time, Enoch (as with Boris today, friend and foe alike referred to him by his unusual Christian name) was a polariser. He had fervent supporters and violent – sometimes literally violent – opponents. Luckily, this no longer applies. Powell died in 1998. He would have been 100 this year. The 21st century can consider him in the perspective of history.
But why should one bother? What is there to learn from a politician who, in career terms, failed, never rising higher than being minister of health?
This book, friendly to Enoch, but critical too, provides excellent answers. The speech of Powell’s which it quotes most frequently is one in which he himself addressed the question. “At the end of a lifetime in politics,” he said, “when a man looks back, he discovers that the things he most opposed have come to pass and that nearly all the objects he set out with are not merely not accomplished, but seem to belong to a different world from the one he lives in.” Yet it turns out that failure has its uses. It can make people see more clearly than success.
Enoch had a powerful mind and remarkable gifts of expression. He could think boldly about a huge range of subjects, and then argue about them with intellectual force and high emotion. The editor of this book, Greville Howard, rightly mixes essays about Enoch with whole speeches by the man himself. The reader picks up his strangely compelling tone of voice – the odd combination of eccentric professor and mass orator, of almost archaic obscurity and devastating clarity.
Here you can learn not only Powell’s thoughts on his main subjects – immigration, Europe, Northern Ireland – but also his groundbreaking ideas about what causes inflation, his bold approach to energy policy, his hostility (deranged by conspiracy theory) to the United States, his skills and deficiencies as a textual critic of ancient Greek and of the Bible, his wisdom on reforming the House of Lords (don’t!), and even the poems which he wrote each year for his beloved wife Pam, who is still alive. (Frank Field, in a touching essay, refers to “the mystery of Enoch and his so lovable Pam”. The greatest pleasure in this book is the first ever interview with Pam. She displays all the warm common sense without which her otherwise lonely husband would surely have gone off the rails.)
People used to complain about Powell’s “remorseless logic”. It is true that he had the donnish fault of believing he could conclusively prove something which had not occurred to others. But I would say that his greater fault, and yet his great virtue also, was his romanticism. His first passionate devotion was to the British Empire, especially in India, where he served during the war. After the loss of India, love spurned drove him towards a view of Britain so post-imperial that it had no room for foreign alliances and global reach at all.
He rejected the United Nations, nuclear deterrence, the “special relationship”, international human rights and, of course, the European Union. His attitude to the British constitution was rather like that of a jealous Muslim father who locks his daughter indoors whenever she so much as looks at a young man from the wrong tribe. For example, I remember him arguing, in 1982, that the realm of England could not contain the Pope of Rome, who, for the first time in history, was about to visit. Needless to say, Pope John Paul II came, and went, and the nation survived.
But Powell’s passion was a virtue as well, because political leaders should be able to feel and to dramatise the history that makes a nation what it is. In an amusing essay here, Anne Robinson recalls her formidable mother, and her firm belief that Enoch was speaking for England.
His commitment to the British nation state, and above all to the Parliament which embodied it, made him pay relentless attention to the visceral issues which lay behind the questions of the day. “Enoch was right”, taxi drivers always used to say 25 years ago. They meant, right about the dangers of mass immigration. Some of them were racists, but I don’t think most were. They had a pride in the identity of their nation and a fear when they felt it threatened. Powell spoke to these feelings, and although his language was inflammatory, he was right to raise the subject. In a well-balanced, often critical essay in this book, Tom Bower goes through the whole “Rivers of Blood” legacy. He points out that Powell’s prediction of the scale of the problem turned out to be more accurate than that of his critics.
The first words of the “Rivers of Blood” speech are: “The supreme function of statesmanship is to provide against preventable evils.” Powell tried sincerely to do this. He did it most systematically on the question of Europe. If you read his speeches of the Seventies, some of which appear in this book, you will concede that his account of what “going into Europe” meant has turned out to be factually correct (even if, unlike Powell, you support what has happened). Nowadays, people often say, in reference to the EU or the euro, that “no one ever told us this”. Powell did: it was just that not enough people were in the mood to listen. If you read this book, you will get in the mood. You will find the passions of 40 years ago strangely relevant to the problems we now confront.
Even the Guardian admits it: Warmism MUST drive up energy bills
Red herring campaigns can’t disguise that
The environment world has a new obsession: energy bills. It’s manifesting itself everywhere. Greenpeace recently urged the prime minister to “take personal responsibility for protecting consumers from high energy prices” and delivered a giant energy bill to Centrica HQ. The shadow climate secretary has declared that we should frame global warming around “bills, not bears”. A new climate change direct action group spent their first interview bemoaning the monopolistic powers of the Big Six. Progressive campaign group 38 Degrees have even set-up a collective buying scheme to help people get cheaper gas and electricity. And a coalition of environment groups are focusing their campaigning efforts on using carbon taxes to tackle fuel poverty, promising warmer homes and lower bills.
It’s not hard to see where all this comes from. Green policies are under attack from the likes of the Daily Mail and George Osborne, so it’s important to remind policymakers and the public that rising gas prices have largely driven recent hikes in bills. Equally, campaigning on cost helps emphasise that the environment movement is in tune with people’s current economic concerns. Harnessing anti-corporate sentiment makes sense too – as does coming up with new ways to empower consumers through collective buying. And making sure people aren’t shivering in their beds by insulating more homes is a no-brainer.
That all makes perfect sense, but there’s something about the current focus on energy bills and energy company profits that makes me uncomfortable. My fear is that the Mail and Osborne have set the agenda and everyone else is dancing to their tune, inadvertently strengthening a very unhelpful paradigm: that energy should be cheap.
That could be risky, because while cutting carbon and avoiding climate change may make perfect economic sense in the long term, the awkward truth is that doing so will add to energy costs for a long time to come. Indeed, the single most important reason that we’re not yet making much progress on solving climate change globally is surely that politicians everywhere are nervous of adding to energy costs in the coming years by constraining fossil fuel use. Every nation is agreed that we should limit temperature rise and that the long-term future should be powered by abundant and inexpensive renewables, nuclear or CCS. But that doesn’t make it any easier or cheaper to leave the fossil fuels in the ground in the meantime – which is the only thing that matters to the climate.
In other words, to make any progress, we need to win the argument on a more fundamental level. We need to make people care sufficiently about climate change that they’re prepared to pay more for energy in the short and medium term in order to avoid potentially catastrophic environmental, social and economic impacts in the long term.
If you’re not convinced, just take a look at the recent analysis of energy bills by the Committee on Climate Change. Greens usually cite this document to show that wholesale gas prices are behind recent bill increases – and also that efficiency measures could limit future rises. Those are both crucial points. But the analysis also contains a less comfortable message: that over the next decade, renewable subsidies and carbon taxes will add far more to energy bills than rising gas prices are expected to. Indeed, if ambitious efficiency measures get implemented as we hope, then by 2020 clean-energy subsidies and carbon taxes will most likely account for more than a fifth of domestic electricity bills (less if gas prices rise faster than expected, but more if gas prices end up lower than expected due to large shale discoveries or other factors).
As long as people care about climate change – about bears as well as bills, if you will – then we should be able to stomach those costs. Surveys suggest that many people (including majorities in China and India as well as the US) would in principal be willing to pay more for energy if they felt it would really help tackle global warming. That said, no one wants their bills to soar, especially in an economic downturn.
So the environment movement needs to perform a difficult balancing act. On the one hand it must defend environmental policies economically and show that it cares about rising bills. On the other, it needs to avoid adding yet more weight to the cultural expectation for – and political prioritisation of – cheaper energy. If that expectation is too great, then green policies will come under increasing stress in the coming decade as their costs increase, and anything that boosts gas supplies in the meantime (such as the EU’s plan to support gas as a low-carbon fuel) will be easier to justify politically.
Of course, whatever happens we’re going to need much more effort to combat fuel poverty. For as long as vulnerable people are suffering in freezing homes, we’re failing as a society. But solving that problem means targeted anti-poverty assistance – not lower bills for everyone, which would tend to incentivise more consumption across the board.
In the case of driving, everyone would take this as a given. We’d never tell David Cameron “to take personal responsibility for protecting drivers from high oil prices”. Neither would we organise group-buying schemes for petrol and diesel, even though the average household spends as much on driving as it does on home energy and oil company profits are, as far as I can tell, higher than those of the utilities. Of course, petrol and home energy aren’t equivalent for a whole number of reasons, but I still think there’s something telling in the comparison.
Maybe I’m worrying about all this too much. Perhaps campaigners are right to be devoting so much of their attention to energy bills and utility profits. But I do feel there’s a risk of making the argument purely economic – all bills and no bears – because by the terms of current economics, the greenest path will almost certainly not be the least expensive path. So let’s be a bit careful which paradigm we’re pushing: clean is more important than cheap.