Scandal Some patients are 60 times less likely to get a cancer scan in postcode lottery
Up to a fifth of GPs are failing to send enough patients for life-saving scans to diagnose cancer, researchers warn. While some doctors are missing symptoms, others are being actively discouraged from referring patients by cost-cutting NHS managers.
A study published today shows that patients with suspected cancer in parts of England are 60 times more likely to be sent for scans than those living elsewhere.
Researchers say this is partly due to a ‘lack of awareness’ among some GPs which means they are failing to spot possible symptoms.
But they also warn that family doctors are frequently being ‘told off’ by hospital consultants or managers at primary care trusts for apparently sending in patients ‘unnecessarily’.
Under Department of Health guidelines, anyone with suspected cancer is meant to undergo an urgent scan within two weeks of them first seeing their family doctor.
But research by the National Cancer Intelligence Network has shown that patients’ chances of being referred for these tests depend entirely on where they live, and with which GP practice they are registered.
In some surgeries only 89 out of 100,000 patients are being sent in for urgent cancer tests within two weeks.
This is a fraction of the average across England, which is 1,800 per 100,000 patients. And in some practices more than 5,500 per 100,000 patients are referred for a test within two weeks.
Dr Mick Peake, lead clinician of the NCIN, warned that between 15 and 20 per cent of family doctors were ‘under-referring’ – sending too few patients for scans.
‘There is evidence of underperformance here,’ he said. ‘I think doctors are being told off by hospital doctors for sending unnecessary people up. Second is their own lack of awareness. There are some GPs who are less aware, less alert. The PCTs are actually trying to discourage GPs from referring.’
Cancer survival rates in Britain are consistently among the lowest in Europe and researchers say this is partly because the illness is frequently diagnosed too late.
Last year it emerged that a quarter of PCTs had policies in place urging family doctors to ration the number of patients they send for cancer scans.
Trusts have to pay hospitals for every patient undergoing a scan which can be up to £600 on top of the cost of them seeing a specialist.
But Dr Peake said that in order to ensure those patients with cancer were diagnosed early, family doctors should feel free to refer anyone they thought could have the illness.
Sarah Woolnough, of Cancer Research UK, said: ‘We urgently need to learn more about what’s behind these differences and tackle any poor practice.
‘We already know that some patients present several times with cancer symptoms before being referred for further investigation, which can lead to late diagnosis. And a delayed cancer diagnosis could prove critical for a patient’s chance of survival.’
The study by the NCIN – which is part-funded by the Government to improve cancer research – looked at data for nearly all 8,000 GP practices in England.
One of the lowest rates was for a practice in Hillingdon PCT, West London. The highest were found in a surgery in Sefton PCT, near Liverpool.
But there is also concern that some GPs are referring patients unnecessarily for scans when their chance of having cancer is extremely low. This causes patients needless worry and can lead to longer waiting times for those who do have the illness.
Professor Sir Mike Richards, the Government’s National Cancer Director, said: ‘Everyone with persistent symptoms which could be cancer should be checked out urgently. Where differences have been exposed, GPs should consider their referral practices.’
UK Border Agency sending home illegal immigrants on virtually empty chartered jets
The UK Border Agency has been hit by new controversy after it emerged it was spending millions of pounds deporting failed asylum seekers on near empty chartered flights.
UKBA has spent £133million in the last five years, or an average of £5,000, sending each person back to their home country, according to information released under a Freedom of Information request.
But the figures released to the Sunday Express show that many of the planes are leaving more than half empty due to last-minute appeals by those trying to stay in UK.
And some flights are left deliberately unfilled because the UK has arrangements with host countries not to send too many people back in one go, it is claimed.
Under strict regulations those facing deportation must be given 72 hours notice – enough time to launch a legal challenge and delay their expulsion.
On some flights, staff on the plane outnumbered those being deported by more than three to one.
During the last 12 months the agency has spent £9million chartering 37 flights, equating to £250,000 per plane.
In November, last year, a flight destined for Ghana had 233 seats, but returned only 23 people and had 58 staff aboard.
In December, last year, another plane heading to Afghanistan returned only 59 people but required 115 staff aboard who occupied most of the 224 available seats.
The TaxPayers’ Alliance said: ‘These flights come at a huge cost to British taxpayers so they have to be planned far more carefully.
‘Last minute appeals will happen but the bill for hard-pressed families is enormous and the more money saved the better. ‘Any international agreements that throw up more red tape just cost taxpayers more of their hard-earned cash and have to be reviewed.’
The cost of air deportations has increased by more than 40 per cent over the years.
A spokesman for the UK Border Agency said: ‘It is right those with no right to be here should go home and these flights still represent a cost effective way of removing in volume.
‘The increased expenditure on charter flights reflects the general rise in the cost of air travel and the fact that our charters operate almost exclusively to long-haul destinations.’
Earlier this month it was revealed border chiefs are struggling with an enormous backlog of 276,000 immigration cases.
The growing total includes asylum seekers, foreign criminals and illegal migrants and is equivalent to the population of Newcastle.
MPs on the Commons Home Affairs Committee said the UK had become a ‘Bermuda Triangle’ for migrants, a country where it is ‘easy to get in, but impossible to keep track of anyone, let alone get them out’.
Some 21,000 new asylum cases have built up because officials were able to process only 63 per cent of last year’s applications.
In addition, there are 150,000 legal immigrants who came as students and workers but whose visas have since expired. This figure is rising by 100 every day. The UK Border Agency does not know if these immigrants are still here, despite the fact they have no right to stay.
Forty per cent of this group had never been sent a letter telling them to leave the country, as all those with expired visas should.
Tens of thousands of these lapsed visa cases date back more than five years and are a legacy of Labour’s catastrophic mismanagement of Britain’s immigration system.
There are also 3,900 foreign criminals living in the community and free to commit more crimes, including more than 800 who have been at large for five years or more.
On top of this, another 101,000 asylum and immigration cases remain from the backlog of more than 450,000 found lying around in officials’ cupboards and drawers six years ago.
British Labour Party delighted at Games ‘socialist’ opening ceremony
Labour politicians yesterday hailed the Olympic opening ceremony as a ‘socialist’ event and ‘the best advert for the party for years’ – as the row over its political message intensified.
Artistic director Danny Boyle has been widely praised for Friday’s opening spectacular. But some Conservatives questioned the political undertones of a ceremony which at one point made a feature of the symbol popularised by the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament.
Tory MP Aidan Burley was slapped down on Friday night for describing the ceremony as ‘leftie, multicultural c***’.
But several Tory Cabinet ministers, including Education Secretary Michael Gove, were yesterday reported to have voiced concerns privately.
Government sources acknowledged that some ‘suggestions’ had been made to Mr Boyle, but denied that a private screening of rehearsals for Cabinet ministers had provoked major controversy.
Some Labour politicians struggled to contain their glee about the ceremony’s message, congratulating Mr Boyle for ‘smuggling in wonderfully progressive socialist sentiments’.
Carl Sergeant, a minister in the Welsh government, took to Twitter to describe Friday’s opening ceremony as ‘the best Labour Party political broadcast I’ve seen in a while’.
Taunting David Cameron, he added: ‘Working class history, multicultural, NHS, CND, gay kissing. Well done, comrade Boyle! Bet Dave is wriggling!’
Mr Burley was widely criticised at the weekend for remarks on Twitter in which he attacked the political message of the opening ceremony.
The Cannock Chase MP, who lost his job as a ministerial aide after attending a Nazi-themed stag party last year, described the event as ‘the most leftie opening ceremony I have ever seen – more than Beijing, the capital of a communist state! Welfare tribute next?’
Mr Burley added: ‘Bring back red arrows, Shakespeare and the Stones!’ He later said that he had not been criticising multiculturalism but thought its portrayal was ‘rather trite’.
London’s Tory Mayor Boris Johnson dismissed his comments, saying: ‘People say it was all leftie stuff. That is nonsense. I’m a Conservative and I had hot tears of patriotic pride from the beginning. I was blubbing like Andy Murray.’
Downing Street also distanced itself from Mr Burley. A spokesman said: ‘We do not agree with him.’
The Prime Minister called the opening ceremony ‘a great showcase for this country’.
But Labour MP Paul Flynn said: ‘Boris has been spewing wild meaningless superlatives hoping to obliterate the eloquent messages of Danny Boyle on NHS, CND, and the futility of war. Wonderfully progressive socialist sentiments and ideas were smuggled into the opening romp. The Tory Olympic twosome were tricked into praising the Trojan Horse.’
Mr Boyle, now widely tipped for a knighthood, dismissed suggestions of political bias, saying the theme was ‘this is for everyone’.
But reports surfaced yesterday of concerns among some Cabinet ministers about the political content. One report said Mr Gove had given the ceremony just four marks out of ten following a private screening of rehearsals.
Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt is also reported to have raised concerns, although Home Secretary Theresa May is said to have backed Mr Boyle’s vision.
A spokesman for Mr Gove last night denied he had voiced heavy criticism of the ceremony and said he thought the event was ‘marvellous’.
Downing Street dismissed suggestions of Cabinet concern as ‘nonsense’. A source said ministers had been kept updated by Mr Boyle, adding: ‘If there had been disquiet about the themes of the opening ceremony, we wouldn’t have doubled the budget’.
The brother of comedian Rowan Atkinson, who played a starring role in the ceremony, also criticised the event’s political message, saying it had ‘strong strands of the parochial Left’.
Rodney Atkinson, a Eurosceptic academic, said the ceremony’s ‘assumption that the industrial revolution was oppressive’ was simply wrong.
But a survey by pollster Survation yesterday found that only 15 per cent of viewers thought the ceremony was ‘too political’.
Off sick for a decade… with acne or a cough! The astonishing cases among 885,000 British sickness claimants
Thousands of people have been on sickness benefits for a decade or longer because they suffer from conditions including acne, bad backs and persistent coughs.
Official figures show that 885,100 have been signed off as being too sick to work and given incapacity benefit for ten years or more.
They have a bewildering array of conditions. Nearly 70,000 have been signed off due to bad backs while a further 140,000 have been away from the work place because of ‘depressive episodes’.
Ten people have been on incapacity benefit for a decade or more because of acne, while 670 have been signed off because they are obese.
Some 1,020 have been claiming incapacity since at least 2001 because of headaches. Figures for the more debilitating migraines are collected separately.
It has also taken 30 people more than a decade to recover from fractured forearms.
More than 12,800 have been claiming benefit for their alcoholism since at least 2001, according to the figures, which cover claims up to the end of last year. Another 9,800 have been on benefits for their drug problems.
Twenty have been signed off because of conjunctivitis, an eye condition that can usually be cleared up within days.
A further 20 have been off work and on benefits with a cough listed as their main illness and 20 more claimants have been suffering from rashes.
Some 1,300 have been claiming incapacity benefit for a decade or more because of diarrhoea and gastro-enteritis.
Malaise and fatigue – something many workers can claim they suffer from – is the main condition listed for 4,390 long-term sickness claimants.
Most of the 885,000 who have been on long-term sickness benefit for a decade or more had not had any contact with the Department for Work and Pensions since signing on.
The department is halfway through reassessing the 1.5million incapacity benefit claimants to see whether they can be moved into work or need extra help.
Employment Minister Chris Grayling said: ‘Reform of the broken incapacity benefit system is about saving lives, rather than writing people off to a life on benefits as used to happen.
‘The reassessment of 1.5 million people on incapacity benefit and the work capability assessment we use means we can take account of conditions that change over time. If you can work you will get all the help and support you need to do so.’
He added: ‘These figures show the scale of the problem and the ludicrous situation that used to exist and why we are right to reform the system.’
It has also emerged that a record 3.2million Britons are now claiming Disability Living Allowance – treble the amount only two decades ago. This is a benefit paid to disabled people because of the extra costs they face, and many who receive it are also working.
Some 33 new claimants are signing on for Disability Living Allowance every day. The shocking figure of 3,226,790 claiming DLA is more than the entire population of Wales, or six times the population of the city of Manchester.
Taxpayers are now shelling out £13.4billion a year for DLA claimants, the same amount as the budget for the Department for Transport. DLA can be worth up to £131.50 a week depending on the severity of the condition. A care component of up to £77.45 a week can be claimed and a separate mobility payment can be worth up to £54.05.
Teachers are treated like ‘NHS staff on a Saturday night: British Head teacher’s fury as he is attacked by father who claimed his son was being BULLIED
A headmaster today attacked the culture of parents treating teachers like ‘NHS staff on a Saturday night’ after he was beaten up a father angry his son was being bullied at school.
Kieran Heakin, 60, was grabbed around the throat after being confronted in his study by the father who had gone to the school to claim his son was being bullied by fellow pupils.
As another teacher tried to intervene, the father also tried to ‘knee’ and headbutt Mr Heakin, shouting: ‘Now I am really going to hurt you’
Mr Heakin, headmaster of St John the Baptist Roman Catholic school in Burnley, Lancashire, was left sore and bruised after the distressing incident and the father, 45, was subsequently arrested.
The head teacher hit out at the lack of respect shown to teachers by parents after the unnamed father who attacked him escaped jail after he was found guilty of assault. He said: ‘We are just like NHS staff on a Saturday night where people come into a hospital accident and emergency department and do not have any respect for those people who are trying to help.
‘Teaching today is very different to what it used to be like. You have to be really on top of your game and each day you just do not know what is going to happen that day and it could be that a trivial incident turns into a major incident.
‘Parents are going through hard times to and there are a lot more broken families and children today can sometimes suffer and these days are brought up having their tea in front of the TV.
‘I have forgiven this person but you do get the small minority of parents who have no respect for anybody.
‘Other teachers and heads can get depressed about it and when speaking to fellow head teachers I have found that they can get very irate and not want to carry on with the profession.
‘But I see it as a character building experience and life is full of experiences.’
The attack occurred last November after father – who cannot be named to protect the identity of the child – stormed into the school to talk about taking his son out of classes. He blocked the door of the study to prevent Mr Heakin from leaving his office and then assaulted him. Mr Heakin added: ‘I had visions of him beating me up and finishing me off. I did fear for my life.
‘He then started to strangle me as I tried banging. I managed to get free but then he punched me twice in the arms and in my ribs. He was a well-built man and so the blows were hard. ‘Then he came right up so that his nose was touching mine and said ‘now I am really going to hurt you’ and kneed me twice in the groin area.
‘It was a savage attack. I was concerned for my own safety so I grabbed him by both wrists and held him very strongly for about two minutes while we got help.’
The dad was found guilty of two counts of assault at Burnley magistrates’ court yesterday and was given 16 weeks in prison, suspended for a year, with 12 months’ supervision and a 12-week 7pm to 7am curfew. He was also ordered to pay £100 compensation and £200 costs.
Sentencing, the magistrates told the father: ‘Head teachers and all teachers deserve the protection of the courts to be able to carry out their jobs, in often very difficult circumstances.’
Teenager suffering from bizarre food disorder only eats chips and cheese and suffers panic attacks at the thought of fresh vegetables
Interesting that a severely limited diet for 8 years seems to have caused no harm aside from her being overweight. It shows how adaptible the human physiology is. Having NONE of the vaunted “5 a day” appears to have had no effect on anything
A teenager suffering from food phobia has had nothing but cheese and chips for eight years – because other food petrifies her.
Abi Stroud suffers panic attacks at the thought of eating fresh fruit and vegetables and even seeing someone peel a banana makes the 18-year-old heave.
The A-level student’s average weekly diet consists of three blocks of mature cheddar, three bags of frozen chips and three bags of bread – but only from the right brands.
Abi, from Newport, Wales, began refusing food aged ten and says she is so embarrassed by her phobia that she has never had a boyfriend.
The unusual condition, called Selective Eating Disorder (SED), means she has a phobia of almost all foods, leaving her scared of trying anything new and was once reduced to tears by a teacher who tried to tempt her to try a chicken nugget.
Abi said: ‘I’m living off chips and cheese and I hate it. I’m so embarrassed about it – I’ve never had a boyfriend because I’m worried about what he would think.
‘I never go out for dinner with friends or eat with other people because so I’m worried about being expected to eat something else.
Abi will only eat food prepared by her mother Debra, 42, but will extend to bread and chips from her local takeaway when her mother and father Russell, 42, are away.
As she is finishing her A-levels the prospect of University which looms come September is terrifying the teen. ‘I’m going to uni in September and I really want to get help so I can enjoy myself and not have to think about chips and cheese.’
The student’s condition has been a part of her life for eight years and Abi believes it may be connected to her grandmother’s death with whom she was very close.
She said: ‘When I was 10 I stopped eating just about everything. I physically couldn’t put something I didn’t want into my mouth.
‘I don’t remember when it happened but it was around the time my nana died and it could have had a psychological effect. ‘If someone asks me to try something else it makes my heart race. The smell hits me first, then the thought of the texture on my tongue.
‘Once on a school trip my teachers tried to get my to eat a chicken nugget and I burst into tears.
‘It’s so embarrassing that I pretend to like things when I don’t. If someone posts a picture of food on Facebook, I’ll say it looks really good. But in reality I’d never touch it.”
As well as chips and cheese, Abi makes chip butties using white bread – but only if it’s the right brand.
She goes without breakfast, has a plate of chips and cheese for lunch then another for dinner with a chip butty to finish.
Her diet had a severe effect on her health. By the age of 16, Abi weighed 15 stone and went to the doctor to find out more about her phobia, but was dismissed.
She said: “The doctor said it was a phase I was going through and basically told me I needed to get over it or I would never have children and probably die young – I was devastated.’
However, instead of changing her diet and introducing healthier food, Abi started eating less to control her weight.
‘I cut down on the amount of chips and cheese I was eating because I still couldn’t face changing my diet.”
Last year Abi was referred to a specialist who diagnosed her with SED – and through diet and exercise she slimmed to 13 stone. She said: ‘Now I know it’s not just me being a fussy eater I feel more confident. ‘I’m determined to try something new.’
Comment on the Olympic opening ceremony: “Is it just me or did the Olympic opening ceremony seem a little leftist and one sided? Whilst the commentary was totally lacking and some of the scenes made no sense at all it would seem we went from Britain went from tending fields with a few geese and horses to an industrial revolution with nothing in between. What’s worse we went from the industrial revolution to the internet to pop music and nothing else. Where were the sciences, the biotechnology advances, space science and astro physics? Britain has contributed so much more to the world than suggested on Friday night.”