Three-week wait to see your GP as 500 more doctors’ surgeries are now closed out of hours
Nearly 500 more GP surgeries across England have closed their doors at weekends and evenings, fuelling a million extra visits to over-stretched A&E departments.
Some patients are being forced to wait up to three weeks to get a basic appointment with their GP, according to figures.
And the number of patients forced to languish in hospital corridors for four hours or more has also doubled.
There has been a 5.7 per cent drop in the number of clinics offering out-of-hours appointments in the last year.
Only 11 bodies governing GPs reported an increase in surgeries seeing patients after hours.
The figures, released by Labour’s ‘NHS Check’, were based on the responses of 91 of the 151 Primary Care Trusts and extrapolated to give an estimate for all of England.
They come a month after some GPs took industrial action over the future of their pensions.
Before the last election, David Cameron said patients should be able to get a GP appointment until 8pm, seven days a week.
But Labour shadow health secretary Andy Burnham said: ‘The Prime Minister promised patients would be able to get evening appointments with their GP, but our figures show things are heading in the opposite direction – with almost five hundred more surgeries now shutting earlier.
‘The NHS Check revealed a major fall in the number of GPs’ surgeries offering evening and weekend appointments – leaving patients unable to see their GP at a convenient time and with some people waiting up to three weeks for an appointment.’
Mr Burnham added that the Government’s ‘calamitous’ decision to overhaul the NHS had allowed the system to drift.
The Coalition also stopped the national monitoring of GP surgeries’ opening hours, which critics said sent the wrong signal to the NHS.
The annual number of visits to A&E departments across England rose from 20.5million to 21.5million.
Desperate patients have also increasingly seen after-hours GP services outsourced to private agencies.
Last night, the Tories hit back at the figures, claiming Labour had inflated its numbers on corridor waiting times by comparing six months of last year’s emergency room waiting times with 12 months of this year’s.
A spokesman said: ‘It is more than a bit rich for the Labour Party to lecture this Government on access to GPs out of hours when it was their disastrous GP contract which meant that 90 per cent of surgeries stopped offering this service altogether.’
There are 8,228 GP practices in England, according to the latest figures.
REAL migrant scandal in Britain? We still pretend we control our borders – when the truth is Brussels won’t let us
Yesterday, yet again, we saw headline news being made by a shocking tale of incompetence and mismanagement by the UK Border Agency, the body set up in 2008 to control immigration to this country.
The backlog of cases piled up in the agency’s labyrinthine system, we are told, amounts to 276,000, equivalent to the population of Newcastle. Most of the migrants are here illegally and should have been sent home years ago.
They include 150,000 foreign workers and students still in Britain even though they were refused extensions to their visas; 101,000 untraced ‘asylum seekers’ left over from when 450,000 ‘forgotten files’ were discovered in 2005; and 3,900 foreign offenders released by the courts to protect their human rights.
Keith Vaz MP, chairman of the Home Affairs Select Committee, calls the Border Agency ‘a Bermuda triangle’ for immigrants who find it easy enough to get into Britain from anywhere in the world, but then vanish off the radar because there is no way of tracing them, let alone deporting them because they entered illegally or have broken our laws.
Scandals surrounding our immigration policy are so commonplace that we all accept it is completely out of control.
MPs like Mr Vaz — whose committee is so exasperated it is now reporting on the Border Agency’s performance every three months — regularly jump up and down asking for something to be done.
But even though it is officially predicted that within eight years Britain’s population will have increased by another five million, nothing ever happens.
Home Secretaries from Labour’s John Reid and Charles Clarke to the Coalition’s Theresa May have faced a torrent of criticism — to which they reply with limp bureaucratic statements, promising action.
But things just go from bad to worse.
Behind this dismal picture, however, lies a much bigger story and one we are simply not being told about. The reason why our immigration policy is in such a shambles is that we do not have any control over it.
The real explanation for almost everything we find so horrifying about this mess is that virtually every aspect of our policy is no longer decided here in Britain at all, but is dictated by a morass of international rules and, above all, by those emanating from the EU.
We are familiar with the fact that, since ten more countries joined the EU in 2004, including Poland and those of formerly Communist eastern Europe, we have had to admit anyone from the 28 countries of the EU, giving them the right to live and work here and to enjoy a wide range of benefits such as our NHS and schools.
But if you examine the section of the EU’s ‘Europa’ website headed ‘Free movement of persons, asylum and immigration’, you will see three pages of headings covering every conceivable aspect of immigration policy, from visa rules to our duties to asylum seekers.
As these headings make clear, the rules, many based on UN and other international agreements, cover not just the way we must treat EU citizens but how we deal with immigrants from the rest of the world.
The scandal of this is twofold. It is not just that successive governments have handed over to the EU the power to dictate every aspect of who we must admit to live and work in Britain, it is also the extent to which politicians such as Mrs May will not honestly and openly admit this.
Ministers and MPs continue to pretend that we at least have some control over immigration by what they slyly call ‘non-EU citizens’.
But the truth is that we have signed up to a vast system of international rules about how we must treat migrants, no matter where they come from — which mean that our politicians and officials, like those of the UK Border Agency, no longer have any choice but to obey them.
The reason why the Border Agency is faced with this horrifying backlog of cases involving immigrants, most of whom should no longer be here, is that in everything it does the agency tries to follow more zealously than any other country in Europe the procedures of the system we signed up to, a system so tortuously complex that it is unworkable.
And on top of this we have all the absurdities piled on us by the Human Rights Act, which enshrines the European Convention on Human Rights, into British law.
It was under this act, for instance, that an Iraqi asylum seeker was allowed to stay in Britain — even though in 2003 he had left 12-year-old Amy Houston to ‘die like a dog’ after hitting her with his car while driving with no insurance and no licence, and then running away, leaving her still conscious under the car.
To deport him, argued lawyers at a case which finally concluded in 2010, would have interfered with his right to a family life, with a partner and children whom he hadn’t even seen for several years.
A vast human rights industry has been built up on this Act, enriching hundreds of lawyers who can talk judges into an endless stream of decisions which stand common sense and justice on their heads — none more obviously crazy than those involving dangerous foreign citizens who should never have been allowed to stay here in the first place.
But the most sinister aspect about how we have ceded any control over our immigration policy to this European system lies in the purpose behind it.
The real intention of the European system, as we can see from various EU directives and judgments by the European courts, is to undermine any sense of national identity.
The aim is to turn Europe into a melting pot of different nationalities so intermingled with each other that the one thing they have in common is their ‘European identity’. EU directive 2004/38, for instance, allows citizens of any EU country and their families to live freely anywhere in the EU, on the grounds that this will ‘strengthen the feeling of Union citizenship’, which is ‘one of the fundamental objectives of the Union’.
But this is equally the guiding principle behind the rules applying to all those immigrants from Asia, Africa and elsewhere who, having managed to get into Europe themselves, are then permitted under EU rules to bring in all their relatives.
The idea is that, in gratitude to the EU whose rules have allowed them to settle here, such immigrants will come to feel a sense of ‘European identity’ — their primary loyalty being to ‘Europe’ rather than to the country they have settled in.
The irony, as we see in Britain when Asians and Africans come to live here, is that many immigrants either feel their loyalty is still to the country they came from, or else they want to become ‘British’. In almost no cases do they think of themselves as ‘European’.
We have long recognised that almost anything the EU turns its hand to fails to work as it was intended. But never was that more evident than in the shambles it has made of its immigration policies — policies our own government has dutifully obeyed, with such catastrophic results.
Yet still our politicians refuse to explain to us where those policies come from.
When the furore broke over that Iraqi asylum seeker who was allowed to remain in Britain after so callously mowing down young Amy, David Cameron — then in opposition — promised her father that he would ‘scrap the Human Rights Act’ to replace it with a ‘British Bill of Rights’.
But, of course, he could never have done anything of the sort because we are now committed to those human rights rules by our membership of the EU. And as Mr Cameron recently told us, the last thing he would ever do is campaign for Britain to leave the EU.
We must therefore accept all the consequences of that commitment — even if it means an immigration policy quite deliberately designed by the EU to destroy our identity as a nation.
What hope for Britain’s faith schools?
The Roman Catholic primary school with a 90 per cent Muslim intake raises questions about immigration and the future of our church schools
‘We’ve only the one family who insist on taking their children out of RE lessons,” says Father Bernard Kelly, the long-serving chairman of the governors at the Rosary School at Saltley in inner-city Birmingham.
Thirty years ago, its 400 pupils were all Catholics, many of them first or second-generation Irish. Now all but 10 per cent are Muslims, yet their parents are apparently happy for them to sit through lessons taught by a largely Christian staff and taken from a Catholic syllabus that includes subjects such as the Pope, the Virgin Mary, the Mass and Jesus.
“What can I say?” exclaims 72-year-old Fr Kelly. “It’s their choice. We make no imposition on them to change their religion.”
Saltley itself, he reports, has altered dramatically even in his 17 years in the parish “and now there are certainly Muslim schools nearby that these children could go to. We’re right next door to a local authority, non-denominational primary, but still Muslim parents keep choosing our Catholic school. It’s a revelation to me.”
He means it in the best possible sense of word – so much so that he insists that the 80-year-old Rosary School will be here “for another eight decades”. Others, though, might use the same word in a different spirit. For this Catholic primary has been making headlines on account of its unusual intake, and has in the process reignited the fierce debate about immigration and the role and purpose of state-funded faith schools.
If these, critics ask, are to continue to be funded by the taxpayer to the tune of 100 per cent of their wage bills and 90 per cent of their capital costs (the other 10 per cent has to be raised by members of the church or denomination), then shouldn’t the logic of the system be that Catholic schools cater for Catholic children, Jewish ones for Jewish children and so on? Why should the state pay the Catholic Church to educate Muslims?
The question takes on a greater urgency when we consider the first fruits of the 2011 census, which was unveiled last week. These show the largest growth in population in England and Wales (by 3.7 million) in any 10-year period since records began in 1810, with one principal cause being a rise in immigration.
That brings a new diversity to our population, in ethnic and religious terms, but also places fresh strains on the compact between government and churches, sealed by the 1944 Education Act, which allows for children in particular faith groups to attend taxpayer-funded “voluntary-controlled” and “voluntary-aided” schools, such as the Rosary Primary.
There are currently about 6,500 such primaries and secondaries in the state system – 65 per cent of them Anglican, 33 per cent Catholic, and smaller numbers of Jewish and Methodist. In recent years, Whitehall has extended this concession to other faiths. The most recent figures from the Department for Education list one Hindu, one Seventh Day Adventist, four Sikh and 11 Muslim voluntary-aided schools.
But numbers have not kept pace with our rapidly rising and diverse population, leading to anomalies such as that seen at the Rosary School. Indeed, the influx has been so fast that, as we can see from the Rosary School, some of society’s institutions no longer explicitly reflect the communities they serve.
The response to this challenge has been attempts to agree an upper and lower cap on admissions from the sponsoring faith group to ensure that the school lives up to its own denominational mission and justifies the allocation of state funds. But there is little agreement on what those limits should be – or even if they are necessary.
The Rt Rev John Pritchard, Bishop of Oxford, head of the Church of England’s Education Board, caused headlines last year by suggesting his schools should admit only one in 10 Anglican church-goers because their “primary function” is “to serve the wider community”. Otherwise, he warned, C of E schools risked operating only to collect “nice Christians into safe places”.
As well as highlighting concerns about community cohesion, the bishop’s remarks were also interpreted as addressing the widespread perception that church schools too often attract ambitious but irreligious middle-class parents because of their better-than-average academic records.
Current practice in most Anglican schools is to admit about 50 per cent of churchgoers (real or otherwise). But the Church of England, as the Established Church, has a unique view of itself as serving everyone in local communities, regardless of their denominational attachment or absence of one. And so the balancing act it tries to pull off is to try to make its schools sufficiently different from their secular counterparts – without ever making them so Christian that they put off the godless and those of other faiths.
The Church School of the Future, published in March under the auspices of Bishop Pritchard, addressed this conundrum directly. It advocated no softening of the commitment to the teaching of RE or to a collective act of Christian worship, but also promoted “distinctiveness within an inclusive community framework”.
Worthy sentiments, but hardly a blueprint for headteachers on how to proceed day to day. The reality is that in most schools they make their own decisions. Some, for example, allow Muslim pupils to wear veils or skullcaps, others don’t. At the Rosary, it is permitted, but Fr Kelly reports that most choose to wear the standard uniform instead. Some schools insist all attend acts of worship, others don’t. Again, it is optional at the Rosary. And some allow children to finish early to attend faith-formation classes at their local temple or mosque. Others don’t.
Michael Gove has often spoken of his admiration for faith schools. But the Secretary of State’s views on the question of a cap may be judged by a leaked letter he wrote earlier this year concerning a planned Catholic comprehensive in Richmond. A high-profile local campaign group, claiming that non-Catholics in the area faced religious discrimination by being excluded from the school, had been pressing for only half of the places at the new school to be reserved for Catholics. In his letter, Mr Gove described this suggestion as seeming “very sensible to me”.
This 50 per cent mark seems to represent the direction of travel for Whitehall and Westminster in the wider debate. But it is fiercely resisted by those running long-standing denominational schools. The Catholic bishops, for instance, defeated a 2008 proposal from the Labour government to impose a 25 per cent non-Catholic intake.
With hindsight, it feels like a curious victory. While some of the most popular and high-achieving Catholic schools can happily fill their classes with Mass-goers, overall figures produced by the Catholic Education Service in 2011 show that nationwide the level of Catholic pupils in Catholic schools stands at 70 per cent – that is, lower than the Labour government had proposed. In Catholic sixth forms, the figure falls to 50 per cent.
However, there seems little appetite right now to revisit the issue, but cases such as the Rosary Primary continue to highlight the apparent absurdities of the present policy of muddling through. The Catholic weekly, the Tablet, reported in 2011 that there were about 25 other schools in similar situations – mainly in the North West and the Midlands, and specifically areas that once had large immigrant Catholic populations, but where the next generation had moved out to be replaced by Muslim families.
The situation varies around the country. In some large cities, the recent influx of Poles and other eastern Europeans has seen Catholic parishes and schools rejuvenated and filled to the limit. And so different dioceses adopt different approaches.
In Salford diocese – which serves Catholics in the Manchester region – the bishop decided in September 2010 to close Sacred Heart Primary in Blackburn when the percentage of Catholics fell to 3 per cent, and to sell the premises to the local education authority. Among those keen to take it over was the local mosque that wanted to run it as a Muslim voluntary-aided school.
“We want to make sure the educational needs of the community are met,” said the diocesan director of education, Geraldine Bradbury, at the time. “We would not be serving the local community by insisting that we run the school. It means having a Catholic headteacher [all Catholic schools must have a Catholic head] and 10 per cent of the timetable on RE. It would be very wrong of us.”
In Birmingham, by contrast, faced by similar statistics at the Rosary School, there is a commitment to keep it open as long as local parents want it. Fr Kelly insists that the work it is doing today in its classrooms with its 90 per cent Muslim intake is “living the gospel in a wider context” and therefore absolutely central to the “witness” of the Church in a multicultural society.
In the space between his unbridled enthusiasm, the Anglican Bishop of Oxford’s controversial talk of distinctiveness and inclusion, and Bradbury’s straightforward pragmatism lies the heart of an unresolved debate about the direction of faith schools funded by the public purse. In an age where immigration is profoundly changing the very fabric of our society, is it whom these schools serve in the denominational sense or how they go about it that justifies their continued existence?
They conceded that Arctic warming and cooling is cyclic and then ran some computer simulations to figure how much warming was due to the cycle. The found only 30% and then concluded that the other 70% must be due to “something else”. And, Hey Presto! that has to be CO2. No thought that the influence might be solar or that their models might be a poor reflection of the great complexity of Arctic temperatures
The radical decline in sea ice around the Arctic is at least 70% due to human-induced climate change, according to a new study, and may even be up to 95% down to humans – rather higher than scientists had previously thought.
The loss of ice around the Arctic has adverse effects on wildlife and also opens up new northern sea routes and opportunities to drill for oil and gas under the newly accessible sea bed.
The reduction has been accelerating since the 1990s and many scientists believe the Arctic may become ice-free in the summers later this century, possibly as early as the late 2020s.
“Since the 1970s, there’s been a 40% decrease in the summer sea ice extent,” said Jonny Day, a climate scientist at the National Centre for Atmospheric Science at the University of Reading, who led the latest study.
“We were trying to determine how much of this was due to natural variability and therefore imply what aspect is due to man-made climate change as well.”
To test the ideas, Day carried out several computer-based simulations of how the climate around the Arctic might have fluctuated since 1979 without the input of greenhouse gases from human activity.
He found that a climate system called the Atlantic multi-decadal oscillation (AMO) was a dominant source of variability in ice extent. The AMO is a cycle of warming and cooling in the North Atlantic that repeats every 65 to 80 years – it has been in a warming phase since the mid-1970s.
Comparing the models with actual observations, Day was able to work out what contribution the natural systems had made to what researchers have observed from satellite data.
“We could only attribute as much as 30% [of the Arctic ice loss] to the AMO,” he said. “Which implies that the rest is due to something else, and this is most likely going to be man-made global change.”
Previous studies had indicated that around half of the loss was due to man-made climate change and that the other half was due to natural variability.
Looking across all his simulations, Day found that the 30% figure was an upper limit – the AMO could have contributed as little as 5% to the overall loss of Arctic ice in recent decades.
The research is published online in the journal Environmental Research Letters.
British government backs 10pc cut in wind farm aid and says gas is the future
Conservative ministers have backed down on big cuts in subsidies for wind farms in exchange for another review next year and the prospect of a bigger role for gas in Britain’s future energy mix.
The Coalition will today announce that subsidies for onshore wind turbines will be cut by 10 per cent this year, as proposed by Ed Davey, the Liberal Democrat Energy Secretary. That will disappoint Conservative backbenchers, many of whom had called for much larger cuts in subsidy, with some Tories backing a 25 per cent reduction.
Today’s announcement, which follows negotiations between the Coalition parties, will be some relief to the renewable energy industry, which has warned that uncertainty about government support has been putting off investors.
However, more cuts could yet be made following a formal review of the costs of renewable energy to be held in the financial year 2013-14.
In another concession to George Osborne, the Chancellor, today’s statement will contain a clear commitment that “unabated” gas supplies will form a major part of Britain’s energy mix.
Mr Osborne has angered environmentalists by pushing for gas-fired power stations to produce more of Britain’s electricity. Advocates of gas say it is more reliable and cost-effective than renewable sources, but critics say it could leave the UK dangerously dependent on an imported energy source.
Mr Osborne has also opposed the imposition of any new targets for reductions in Britain’s carbon emissions, which he says are “inefficient.”
New planning laws could also make it easier for residents to oppose new wind turbines, and to receive a financial benefit from those that are built.
Because the cuts in subsidy will not exceed 10 per cent, Lib Dem ministers are likely to present the announcement as a victory for their party.
The deal has emerged as Conservative ministers look for ways to shore up the position of Nick Clegg, the Deputy Prime Minister. Senior Tories are worried that Mr Clegg could yet be toppled as party leader, threatening the Coalition.
Tim Yeo, the Tory chairman of the Commons energy committee, said a 10 per cent cut was a sensible reduction in subsidies for now.
“There is general agreement that 10 per cent is perfectly acceptable to reflect growing efficiency and falling costs of turbines,” he said. “In the long term a signal for sharper cuts post-2017 will give the industry time to adapt.”
Renewable UK, the trade group for “green” energy companies, warned that under the Electricity Act the Secretary of State was obliged to justify cuts in aid for renewable energy with economic evidence. Otherwise the Government could be open to legal action, it said.
Cheese ‘beats diabetes’: Just two slices a day could reduce risk of developing the disease, study claims
The effect observed was a tiny one — too small to guide anything
If you are trying to slim down, you may have crossed cheese off the menu. But scientists have discovered it may actually help prevent diabetes – an illness often triggered by being overweight.
They claim that eating just two slices of cheese a day cuts the risk of type 2 diabetes by 12 per cent. Researchers hypothesised that fermentation of cheese could trigger a reaction that protects against diabetes
The findings go against current health guidelines, which advise cutting back on dairy products and other high-fat foods to help prevent the illness.
British and Dutch researchers looked at the diets of 16,800 healthy adults and 12,400 patients with type 2 diabetes from eight European countries, including the UK. The study, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, found that those who ate at least 55g of cheese a day – around two slices – were 12 per cent less likely to develop type 2 diabetes. The risk fell by the same amount for those who ate 55g of yoghurt a day.
For years NHS guidelines have advised against eating too much dairy, cake or red meat as they are high in saturated fat. This is thought to increase cholesterol and raise the risk of diabetes.
But the researchers – including academics from the Medical Research Council, Cambridge – say not all saturated fats are as harmful as others, and some may even be beneficial. One theory is that the so-called ‘probiotic’ bacteria in cheese and yoghurt lower cholesterol and produce certain vitamins which prevent diabetes.
And cheese, milk and yoghurt are also high in vitamin D, calcium and magnesium, which may help protect against the condition.
Diabetes occurs when the body does not produce enough of the hormone insulin to control its blood sugar levels. Symptoms of type 2 diabetes include feeling very thirsty, needing to pass water frequently and constant tiredness.
Although the illness is treatable through methods such as dietary changes, tablets and injections, it can cause serious complications if not properly looked after.
But despite the latest findings, campaigners warned against gorging on cheese and other dairy products in the hope of warding off diabetes. Dr Iain Frame, director of research at the charity Diabetes UK, said: ‘It is too simplistic to concentrate on individual foods. ‘We recommend a healthy balanced diet, rich in fruit and vegetables and low in salt and fat.
‘This study gives us no reason to believe that people should change their dairy intake in an attempt to avoid the condition.’