Mother has healthy daughter despite being told THREE times by NHS doctor to abort her
A mother who said she was told to have an abortion three times has described her relief after she gave birth to a healthy girl. Carrie Chilvers, 28, said a doctor told her there was only a one five five chance her baby would survive when she had her three-month scan at Colchester General Hospital, Essex. They added that even if the baby did survive they would be severely disabled.
However the distraught mother refused to give up on her unborn child and sought a second opinion. She then had to endure an agonising five-week wait before a second scan gave her baby the all-clear.
Carrie gave birth to Elizabeth, who was fit and healthy and weighed 5lbs 4oz, six months ago.
Ms Chilvers said: ‘If I had listened to them I would not have my beautiful baby girl. If I had a termination Elizabeth would not be here and my six-year-old son Conna would not have the little sister he wanted.
They said there was only a 20 per cent chance when I gave birth she would still be alive and she had a cystic hygroma, a growth on the neck.’ If the baby had survived she was told it would have Down’s syndrome, Turner’s syndrome or a chromosome deficiency.
The mother-of-two from Colchester said: ‘They did not tell me anything. They gave me no help or information. ‘It was the worst five weeks of my life. It was like having a ticking time bomb inside me knowing her heart might just stop. I was crying all the time and was off work for weeks.’
Instead of following the doctor’s advice she did her own research. She went to see another consultant who said she should see Professor Khaled Khaled. It was then Professor Khaleed who realised his colleague had made an error. Ms Chilvers said: ‘Professor Khaled was brilliant and I cannot fault him. He told me there was nothing wrong.’
She complained to Colchester General Hospital and on July 11 received a letter telling her the clinician who misread the scan no longer worked there.
A spokesman for Colchester General Hospital said: ‘We are grateful for Miss Chilvers’ kind comments about Professor Khaled but are sorry she was disappointed with some aspects of her care.
‘We carried out a detailed investigation after she made a formal complaint. The complaint was partly, but not wholly, upheld.
‘Where appropriate the trust has apologised to Miss Chilvers and, in addition, an individual clinician has apologised to her in writing.’
In the letter the hospital claimed it had told Carrie there was a 50/50 chance of an abnormality and disagreed with what she said she was told about the chances of a miscarriage.
Hospital blunders ‘result in almost 12,000 preventable deaths in hospitals every year’: Junior doctors badly supervised, says study
Nearly 12,000 patients die needlessly in hospital every year due to blunders by staff, researchers warn.
They say that doctors and nurses routinely misdiagnose illnesses, fail to treat patients quickly enough or give them the wrong dose of drug. And many of the errors happen because junior doctors are not properly supervised by senior colleagues, say the academics.
They warn that the elderly are particularly vulnerable as they often suffer from a number of complicated health problems that can be difficult to diagnose and treat.
In the first study of its kind, researchers have estimated the proportion of hospital deaths that could have been prevented.
The team from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine examined the circumstances leading up to 1,000 deaths in ten NHS hospitals in 2009.
They calculated that 13 per cent of the deaths were avoidable, as they were due to mistakes by hospital staff. If this figure were true for all hospitals in the NHS, it would mean 11,859 preventable deaths are occurring every year.
The study, published in the British Medical Journal, calculated that 60 per cent of those who died were frail, elderly patients with a number of complicated health problems.
Dr Helen Hogan, who led the study, said: ‘Some of the problems were around junior doctors and their decisions on diagnosis and treatment not being looked at by a consultant. For instance a patient with lots of disease might not get assessed and then something is missed. They might then be given a drug that interacts with kidney problems, for example, and they suffer side-effects.’
In one case, a man in his 60s suffering from heart failure was misdiagnosed with bladder cancer. Doctors had apparently overlooked medical notes stating he had a history of heart disease, and he subsequently died.
In another example, a woman in her 80s died after staff took almost three weeks to diagnose irritable bowel syndrome, despite the fact that she had obvious symptoms and was known to have suffered from the illness in the past. Dr Hogan said one way to avoid such deaths would be to ensure sufficient numbers of consultants worked evenings and weekends.
Recently the Government announced that from next year, junior doctors will shadow senior colleagues in their first week at hospital. This is to try to reduce the effects of the so-called ‘killing season’, when hospital deaths rise by as much as 8 per cent when juniors first start their jobs.
The Department of Health said: ‘We know that data like this can help hospitals to improve services.’
The study comes after a coroner this week blamed ‘incompetent’ staff for the death of a 22-year-old man from dehydration at a top teaching hospital. Kane Gorny died at St George’s in South London after resorting to dialling 999 because doctors and nurses were ignoring him.
A new extreme of British authoritarianism
Under legislation by Tony Blair’s Labour party, unsurprisingly. But it is so British that the Cons/Lib government is energetically enforcing it
It beggars belief, but it can now be a criminal offence to use words like Games, Gold and Summer – or even a picture of the London skyline. The reason? An outrageous abuse of our laws to protect the profits of Olympic sponsors…
In passing the London Olympic Games and Paralympic Games Act of 2006, the Blair Government granted the organisers remarkable concessions. Most glaringly, the Act is bespoke legislation that breaks the principle of equality before the law.
For it has given privileges to the Olympics and its sponsors and to them alone. The Games’ organisers can protect the Olympic trademarks, as any other organisation can protect theirs, but they can also control the use of words any business or shop, for example, may or may not associate with the Games. Along with bans on the use of the Olympic name, rings, motto and logo, the organisers have appropriated ordinary language.
At the organisers’ behest, the Government told the courts they may wish to take particular account of anyone using two or more words from what it calls List A: ‘Games’; ‘Two Thousand and Twelve’; ‘2012’; and ‘twenty twelve’.
And the judges must also come down hard on anyone, even a charity, who takes a word from List A and joins it with one or more words from what is List B: ‘Gold’; ‘Silver’; ‘Bronze’; ‘London’; ‘medals’; ‘sponsors’; and ‘summer’. Common nouns are now private property.
The London Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games does not stop there. To cover all eventualities, it warns everyone in Britain against creating an ‘unlawful association’ with the Games, which can be done without even mentioning the forbidden words!
Even the London skyline, believe it or not, is out of bounds if it is combined with, for example, an image of a runner carrying a torch.
My beef is not with Britain hosting the Games. It is with the heavy mob which warns that to use banned words or images relating to the Olympics, however obliquely, infringes the exclusive deals of Coca-Cola, McDonald’s, Adidas, Dow, Samsung, Visa and the Games’ other multi-million-dollar sponsors.
And the punishments will not just be damages in the civil courts. The state has granted the police powers under the criminal law to enter ‘land or premises’ and to ‘remove, destroy, conceal or erase any infringing article’.
Its motives are clear enough. The Olympics want to ban the often witty attempts by businesses to annoy the official sponsors with ‘ambush marketing’. My favourite ambush was at the 1992 Winter Olympics, when American Express plastered ads in the streets of the host city saying, ‘You don’t need a visa to visit the games’ — which Visa had, of course, sponsored. Visa could do nothing about American Express’s cheek then.
Now the authorities will meet similar attempts to spoil the sponsors’ party with punishments in the criminal courts.
The Olympics first introduced tight restrictions on ambush marketing at the 2000 Sydney Games, but it was Britain’s 2006 Act which allowed for heavy-handed policing.
According to the Chartered Institute of Marketing, the law does not discriminate between multi-nationals, which can harm major sponsors, and small businesses, which harm no one.
To concentrate on the interests of sponsors, however, is to miss the fanaticism of the authoritarian mentality behind the Games. Priests sacrificed oxen and rams to Zeus and Pelops at the ancient Olympics.
Their successors sacrifice the freedom to speak and publish to the gods of corporate capitalism and international sport. They regard encroachments on their holy space, however trifling, as a modern version of sacrilege. Thus trading standards officers in Stoke-on-Trent told a florist to take down its floral Olympic rings. Offending rings of sausages vanished from a butcher’s window in Dorset.
The owner of underwear shop JJ’s Lingerie in Leicester, meanwhile, was ordered to take down her window display of five mannequins wearing sports bras and modelling hula-hoops in the colours of the Olympic rings.
And, to underscore the true lunacy of this draconian edict, consider the case of 81-year-old grandmother Joy Tomkins, who had to withdraw a doll she had donated to a church sale because the jumper she’d knitted for it showed the Olympic rings.
It is not only the rings. The Olympic organising committee warned estate agents in the West Country they must remove Olympic torches made from old ‘for sale’ signs — or face ‘formal legal action’. In April, the University of Derby, fearing legal action, took down three colourful ‘Supporting the London Olympics’ banners it had printed to celebrate the passing of the torch relay.
More heavy-handed still, at a rehearsal for the torch relay in Northumberland in March, Aidan Kirkwood, a recuperating Afghan war hero, was ordered to cover his trainers in white stickers. The reason? His shoes bore the logo of a rival to the official Olympic sponsor Adidas.
And so the relentless interfering goes on.
When the British Sugarcraft Guild asked the authorities if it might run a 2012 cake decorating competition, it thought it was making a modest request. The Guild was not even going to sell the cakes afterwards. No matter. Only official sponsors could decorate cakes with Olympic symbols, the organisers ruled.
Such narrow-minded strictures are not mere protection of a brand, but evidence of a restless fear of losing control that borders on the paranoid.
Earlier this week, Goldman Sachs published a report on the Games which suggested that economic growth will be boosted by 0.3 to 0.4 per cent in the third quarter thanks to spending by tourists visiting London. If they are right, it could spell the end of the double-dip recession. But are they being too optimistic?
For the Olympics won’t let commerce join the party. Even the official suppliers to the Games — the builders, surveyors and electricians who have made the event a reality — cannot mention their connection in promotional material, for fear of trespassing on the sacred space the sponsors have paid the International Olympic Committee so much money to ring-fence.
I said earlier that all businesses and organisations protect their trademarks, and so they do. But who takes it as far as the Olympics? The All England Club does not threaten shopkeepers who put tennis displays in their windows in Wimbledon fortnight. Not even the Cuban Communist Party claims the right to regulate images of Che Guevara.
The constraints will only grow tighter. You will be able to pay with Visa cards at Olympic events but not MasterCards. You will be able to drink Coke but not Pepsi.
If you fancy something stronger, Heineken will be served in the bars on the Olympic site, having bought the Olympic ‘pouring rights’ for an estimated £10 million. However, John Smith’s bitter and Strongbow cider, although brands owned by Heineken, are not included in the deal and so must be sold as plain ‘English ale’ and ‘English cider’.
At Lord’s, the Olympic archery venue, Marston’s Pedigree Bitter — sponsors of the England Cricket Team — is to be unceremoniously ousted. The real ale will be replaced with — you guessed it — Heineken lager for the duration of the Games, and any photos of Marston’s brand ambassador, the cricketer Matthew Hoggard, will have to be covered.
If the restrictions on drinks sound extreme, rules about what you can eat are even worse. Spectators learned this week that McDonald’s has been telling the organisers to ban 800 food retailers at 40 Olympic sites from serving chips with their meals.
The Olympics’ ‘sponsorship obligations’ to McDonald’s — whose French fries are clearly so tasteless they cannot stand competition — meant that only fish and chips were spared the prohibition. (Not even the Olympics dare ban the national dish.) It was only the protests of workers at the Olympic Park that forced McDonald’s to back down on Thursday.
Whether stewards will turn away spectators if they arrive in clothing branded with the logo of a rival to an official sponsor like Adidas is an unanswered question. Certainly, officials will punish an athlete who, deliberately or not, exposes the logo of an unauthorised company (other than, for example, runners being allowed to wear branded racing spikes).
Modern athletes can afford a fine. But what of the Olympic bureaucrats’ warning to spectators that they must not ‘broadcast or publish video and/or sound recordings, including on social networking websites and the internet’?
In the age of instant uploads from iPhones to Facebook and Twitter this is an absurd restriction that is likely to boomerang back into the organisers’ faces. The web has made fools of those like the footballer Ryan Giggs who tried to enforce unwarranted controls on information. It is my sincere hope that bloggers and tweeters give the International Olympic Committee the same treatment.
The Chartered Institute of Marketing is rightly angry that the taxes of the small businesses and shopkeepers it represents have paid towards the £9 billion cost of the Games, yet they are not allowed to use the Olympics to seek custom as they could use Wimbledon, the Queen’s Jubilee and every other national event.
But all this raises a more profound point about corporate power in the 21st century.
The Olympic organisers dismiss everyone seeking to exploit the Games — from High Street butchers to rival multi-nationals — as ‘parasites’, an insult they really should not throw around since it is they who have allowed the fat and sugar pushers of McDonald’s and Coca-Cola to purchase a parasitical association with athletics.
In reply to that dismissive put-down, the Institute of Marketing says there must be limits to what money can buy. Sponsors should be able to garner good publicity from an event, and protect their investment, of course.
But a free society should not allow them to occupy every possible avenue of commercial advantage as if they were dictators in a totalitarian state, rather than merchants in a democracy.
Despite protests by the Institute at the highest level, a complete monopoly on the public consciousness is what the sponsors of the 2012 games have bought — with the active support of the British Government.
Therein lies the true scandal of the 2012 Olympics. Ministers should have told the organisers that Britain is a free country, and that they cannot turn officers of the law into McDonald’s, Coke and Visa’s private police force. Instead they have given private interest a free pass.
For a few weeks in August, Britain will be a corporate dystopia, in which agents of a sporting behemoth will ban the normal and, until now, legal marketing of products, and seek to stop file-sharing on social network sites.
Yet Britain’s lawyers have shown no desire to warn the Olympic organisers that they just can’t do that here, and for a depressing reason: Article 10 of the Human Rights Act protects free speech, but in case after case the judiciary has ignored it.
The Games will provide a further illustration of the weakness of our protections against oppressive power.
It will demonstrate again that Britain is a country where freedom of speech is praised in theory but suppressed in public. Only this time the whole world will be watching as we let intolerant men push petty censoriousness to a record-breaking extreme.
In 2005, Britain boasted that it had ‘won’ the Olympics. When the Games begin, it will become clear that the Olympics and its corporate sponsors won Britain.
Parents’ fury as teen who raped girl, 4, is allowed to return to his old school with victim’s brother
Judge blames “society”
A teenager who raped a four-year-old girl he was babysitting will return to his old school and share its corridors with his victim’s brother. The victim’s parents are calling for the 15-year-old sex attacker to be moved to another location after he admitted the crime but avoided jail last week after he blamed his hormones.
Her older brother is also due to attend the same school in Cambridgeshire next year and will face bumping into him between lessons.
The devastated family, who cannot be named for legal reasons, also live in the same street as the child’s attacker. The victim’s mum said today: ‘I don’t want him at the same school as him but I can’t move him way from his friends. I just can’t do it. ‘Believe me I want everyone to know he’s there and to write it across the front of the school but I can’t.’
Another mother, said: ‘I can’t believe that the person in question has been allowed back into the school. ‘As parents we were not told about it, which I am furious about.
‘I feel my daughter is at risk. I am so angry and shocked by what’s going on. Whoever’s decision it was to place the attacker back at the school has a lot to answer for.
The culprit, who was a family friend, was asked to look after the little girl for two hours while her parents attended their son’s Christmas play. While they were out the babysitter raped her.
The victim, who has since turned five, later told her father she had been attacked by the teenager who told police he ‘lost his mind’ because his ‘hormones took over.’
Judge Gareth Hawkesworth was slammed for failing to imprison the teen attacker after he admitted the rape in court last week. The judge instead laid the blame at the hands of ‘society and the world’ for allowing the teenager to become corrupted by online porn.
One parent from the Cambridgeshire school, which cannot be named for legal reasons, said: ‘A lot of parents know who he is. ‘He should be moved out of the school and taught somewhere else or at home even. “
The little girl’s parents had trusted the quiet but ‘normal kid’ to watch her for a couple of hours in return for £10 pocket money.
But when they got home the victim’s Dad was getting her ready for bed when she revealed the babysitter had played a game, promising to reward her with chocolates. It then came out he had abused her.
The teenager admitted the offence when he was later confronted by the victim’s family.
‘I should want to rip this boy’s head off – but I think I let my daughter down,’ the guilt-ridden father said last week. ‘I blame myself because I left her in a room with him and made the wrong judgment.’
‘Our daughter was just four years old and so small for her age, she was still wearing age two to three clothing. He was a lot bigger than her,’ her distressed mother added.
No-one at the attacker’s school was prepared to comment on what safety measures would be in place for other pupils. But a spokesman said: ‘It would be wholly inappropriate to comment on arrangements for an individual pupil. ‘The school’s focus will be on ensuring it continues to meet the educational and well being needs of all pupils.’
British border desks still not manned despite peak hour promise
Passengers have faced huge delays at Heathrow because the Border Force has failed to deliver ministerial promises to man all immigration desks at peak times over the summer, it can be disclosed. At some of the busiest times, just over half the desks were in operation.
This is despite a promise earlier this year by Damian Green, the immigration minister, that desks at key ports would be fully manned at peak times “over the summer”.
A series of internal BAA documents documents seen by The Daily Telegraph have revealed how the chaotic deployment of staff in recent weeks has heaped more misery on the travelling public.
Even last month’s maximum queuing time of just over two hours recorded by Heathrow’s operator, BAA, is an underestimate after it emerged that the figures do not take into account people waiting in the corridors outside the arrivals hall.
Additional staff are due to be deployed at ports from this weekend to avoid the run up to the Olympics being overshadowed by the chaos which has engulfed Heathrow in particular, with MPs describing some of the queues faced by passengers as “appalling”.
But the hit squads of additional immigration officers already sent in by the Home Office are proving ineffective .
The longest queue at the airport last month was just over two hours at Terminal 4 at 7.30pm on June 18, But only 12 desks were manned. During quieter times, when the queues for non EU passengers were only 15 minutes, all 20 were covered.
A similar pattern emerged at Terminal 3 on June 29, which handles a large number of long haul international flights during the morning peak between 7 and 8.30am.
On at least one busy day last month more than half the desks were unmanned at this time, but then staffing levels increased later in the morning at the same time as the number of flights dwindled.
This is understood to have been commonplace during the month reflecting, according to the Immigration Service Union, the way in which the mobile teams drafted in to provide reinforcements have been deployed.“Most contingency staff are not sent to the desks until around 10am,” said Lucy Moreton, the union’s deputy general secretary.
The Daily Telegraph has learned that members of these hit squads spend much of their time drinking tea, sitting in offices waiting to be sent to terminals and being transported from arrivals hall to another
On one occasion last month a team was unable to provide reinforcements for more than an hour because of a delay in finding the yellow high visibility jackets they needed to move across the airport.
Home Office ministers and the Border Force have repeatedly disputed reports that passengers were frequently spending more than two hours to get into the country.
However such reports were given added credibility with BAA saying there were occasions when it was unable to count everybody in the queue. “We measure from the last person in the queue, even if the queue stretches out of the immigration hall. On some occasions the queue has stretched to the point where non-EEA and EEA passengers become mixed,” a spokesman said.
“On these occasions we measure from the point at which the queues are separated into EEA and non-EEA passengers. We acknowledge that this means there may be occasions on which passengers wait longer than the measured time.”
Yvette Cooper, shadow home secretary, rounded on the Government. “These latest figures confirm what passengers already know – the immigration minister doesn’t even know what is happening at our airports and the borders fiasco continues,” she said.
Damian Green promised everyone in April he was going to sort the queues and staff all the immigration desks at peak times in the summer.
“Despite the weather summer is here, the Olympics are days away and yet the Home Secretary and Immigration Minister still haven’t sorted this out.
“Theresa May is in danger of turning the Borders Force into a borders farce. First the Home Secretary cut over 900 border officers then the Home Office re-employ them in a panic or put undertrained new recruits onto the front line wasting extra taxpayers money too.”
However this was disputed by a Home Office spokesman.
“This is simply not true. The Immigration Minister said we would provide extra staff for busy periods this summer and ensure all desks are fully manned during the peak Olympic arrival period and during the Games. That’s exactly what we’re doing.”
How neo-Malthusians demonise dissent
In branding those who disagree with them `deniers’, the overpopulation lobby reveals its allergy to debate
Michael Buerk, the broadcaster famous for bringing images of Ethiopia’s famine to BBC viewers’ attention in 1984, claimed this week that the issue of human population growth is the `invisible issue of the twenty-first century’.
And why is population growth the great unmentionable of our time? Because, as Buerk puts it, of `the population deniers’. This evil constituency seems `to regard the whole issue as bad taste, a kind of disguised racism’, he said. As a result, overpopulation `does not seem to be up for discussion’.
Really? An `invisible issue’? Not `up for discussion’? In fact, here’s just a few of the people who have joined the choir singing about the perils of population growth: former US president George HW Bush, the Dalai Lama, Hillary Clinton, David Attenborough, Bob Geldof and Cameron Diaz. They’re not exactly low-profile people. Even Queen Elizabeth II has chimed in with some miserable Malthusian rhetoric. When speaking of the Caribbean island of St Vincent’s, she said: `One must remember that its resources are finite and cannot accommodate indefinite population growth.’
And if recent surveys are any indication, this `invisible issue’ which is `not up for discussion’ seems to be pretty visible and widely discussed among the public. According to a Guardian poll, for instance, 75 per cent of respondents agreed that `the planet can’t sustain more mouths to feed’. Elsewhere, a YouGov poll found that `over four out of five (84 per cent) thought the world population was too high’. Overpopulation hardly seems to be a taboo issue in polite conversation.
In fact, it seems to be Buerk himself who is attempting to shut down debate about population growth by using the pejorative `population deniers’ to describe those with differing views. The use of the term `deniers’ is a cheap attempt to place those who dissent from neo-Malthusian malarkey on the same level as those with whom the term is most closely associated: Holocaust deniers. By labelling opponents as such, Buerk is trying to portray them as being as mad and irrational as those who refuse to acknowledge the mass slaughter of European Jewry during the Second World War.
Besides, there’s a reason why neo-Malthusian population obsessives are accused of racism – and it has nothing to do with trying to shut down debate. Rather, racism is an inescapable feature of the Malthusian tradition. Thomas Malthus, the awkward godfather of the modern overpopulation movement, attempted to set in biological stone the social problems of early industrial Britain at the turn of the nineteenth century. By claiming that population always outgrew the development of the means to support it, he was able to blame poverty on the copulating habits of, as he put it, the `race of labourers’. This elitist and prejudiced view of Britain’s emerging working class is now projected on to the people of Africa and Asia by today’s neo-Malthusians. Where Malthus portrayed the impoverished workers of early capitalism as causing their own misfortune and misery through being so stupid as to have lots of children, his contemporary equivalents frame the impoverished Africans and Asians in the same way.
The racism of neo-Malthusian types is often apparent today. Hence when ever the alleged issue of overpopulation is discussed, the focus is always on the dark-skinned people of the Third World. Despite their meagre consumption levels, the dark mass of people Over There are accused of using up too many of the world’s resources. That’s why, as Brendan O’Neill has pointed out, news articles discussing overpopulation often use pictures of `Indians squeezing on to a train, Chinese women going shopping, [and] black babies sleeping’.
The problem with the overpopulation theorists, be it Malthus or Michael Buerk, is their dismal view of humanity. When looking at the population of the earth, they view humans simply as mouths to feed, a plague of locusts that consumes all it can. They don’t take into account the other side, that humans are also producers. Each mouth to feed also comes with a pair of hands and a brain. The problem of poverty in the Third World is not due to Africans’ feckless, contraceptive-averse behaviour creating too many mouths to feed; it is a product of a lack of economic growth, growth that would allow the hands and brains to be used to create more goods for more people to consume.
As Karl Marx pointed out, poverty that may seem to be the result of overpopulation is due to limits `posited rather by specific conditions of production. How small do the numbers which meant overpopulation for the Athenians appear to us!’ As economies and societies develop, so too does the ability to support more and more people. The Malthusians view resources as fixed and finite; they ignore advances in human productivity. What was a useless piece of the earth one day becomes a highly useful resource the next. When pre-industrial man used oil to water-seal boats, none would have imagined that this black liquid would one day power the world. As human progress continues, so will our ability to produce more stuff for ever larger numbers of people.
More British students forced to sit university admissions tests
Rising numbers of students are being forced to sit admissions tests to get into university amid fears that A-levels fail to mark out the brightest schoolchildren, it has emerged.
At least 75 universities are setting exams to gain admission to a series of traditional academic disciplines such as law, medicine and mathematics, figures show.
Nick Gibb, the Schools Minister, insisted that the number of institutions running their own exams had soared by 50 per cent in just three years.
Last night, it emerged that Oxford is forcing almost nine-in-10 candidates to take some form of aptitude test as part of the admissions process next year. In 2009, just a third were required to sit an entrance exam.
The disclosure will fuel fears that universities are struggling to identify the most able applicants from a huge rise in the number of school leavers with straight As at A-level.
Last summer, 27 per cent of entries were graded A* or A – almost three times the number in the mid-80s – and the overall pass-rate increased for the 29th year in a row.
In a speech, Mr Gibb warned that “strong evidence has been emerging of grade inflation across subjects” in recent years.
He quoted figures showing that 75 universities – roughly half of those in Britain – were running some form of admissions test this year, up from 50 in 2009. “In an effort to distinguish between candidates, more and more universities are resorting to using their own tests,” he said.
The Government is now toughening up A-levels by proposing to scrap bite-sized modules and giving universities new powers to write syllabuses and exam questions to raise standards in the traditional exam. Mr Gibb said the move would “help restore confidence in standards”.
Currently, dozens of leading universities use common admissions tests to dictate entry to subjects such as law, medicine, dentistry, veterinary science and maths.
Figures from the organisation Supporting Professionalism in Admissions (SPA), which advises universities on admissions policies, shows that 27 use the UK Clinical Aptitude Test for Medicine and Dentistry.
A further nine use the National Admissions Test for Law and six employ the Sixth Term Examination Paper in Mathematics.
But research shows that many universities also set their own their own exams for a range of other subjects such as accounting, classics, engineering, English, history, languages, teacher training and nursing.
Mike Nicholson, head of admissions at Oxford, said that 85 per cent of applicants to the university will take some form of aptitude test as part of the 2013 applications process. This covered around seven-in-10 subjects, he suggested. Three years ago, between 60 and 65 per cent of candidates sat an entrance exam.
He said the exams acted as a “sifting process” to assess candidates who are later shortlisted for a formal interview, adding: “The tests are part of the additional information tutors will have that allows them to make calls on the candidates who seem to have the greatest strength, the greatest potential for future success.”
Mr Nicholson said a rise in the number of tests had “predominantly been driven by the significant increase in applications that we’ve seen in the last five years”, adding: “It’s not so much A-level. It’s more the diversity of our applicant pool now, so about 70 per cent of our candidates take A-level, 30 per cent don’t, and it’s the 30 per cent that don’t that’s been an increasing figure.
“So part of the value of the tests for our tutors is that it benchmarks the candidates against each other within a discipline.”