Cash-strapped hospitals could be forced to put gynaecology patients and women who have had miscarriages on wards with men

Women undergoing sensitive gynaecological treatment will have to share a mixed ward with male patients under NHS cost-cutting plans. A gynaecological ward – where women are nursed for conditions such as cancer and infertility problems – will be shut at Queen Mary’s Hospital in Sidcup with patients being transferred to a mixed surgical ward instead.

The move, which has been attacked by patients groups, is understood to be part of a national review of NHS services – raising fears that similar measures could be introduced in other hospitals.

The plan contradicts the Government’s pre-election pledge to reduce the number of mixed-sex wards in the NHS.

Cash-strapped hospital trusts are under pressure to cut costs, and critics claim this could lead to poorer conditions for patients with some services potentially being merged or reduced.

Hospital bosses at Queen Mary’s have defended the decision to close the ward, which is expected to take place within weeks.

They say the women affected will be cared for together in separate areas from men and that they will be looked after by female nurses.

South London Healthcare Trust, which runs the hospital, was the first to be placed into administration by the Government after it reportedly fell into £150 million worth of debt. The trust is believed to be overspending by £1.3m a week. Queen Mary’s had its accident and emergency and maternity wards closed in 2010.

A hospital spokesman said the mixed ward the gynaecology patients will be transferred to has separate female and male bays and bathroom facilities and that female patients will not have to mix with male patients. They said the dignity of patients remains the hospital’s priority.


‘Creationism’ in Britain’s free schools: the whiff of a witch-hunt

The British Humanist Association is trying to whip up anxiety about “Creationist” free schools scheduled to open in 2012 and 2013. This is from a BHA press release:

    “Grindon Hall Christian School in Sunderland, currently a private all-through school but approved last October by the Department for Education to open as a Free School from this September, has a “Creation Policy” on its website in which they “affirm that to believe in God’s creation of the world is an entirely respectable position scientifically and rationally” and state they will “teach creation as a scientific theory”; while Sevenoaks Christian School, a secondary school in Kent approved to open from 2013, sets out the creationist beliefs of the school’s founders, and explains that creationism will be taught in Religious Education (RE).”

Needless to say, the Guardian is on the case:  “The education secretary, Michael Gove, has approved three free schools run by groups with creationist views, including one with a document on its website declaring that it teaches “creation as a scientific theory”.”

But, reading the BHA’s fulminations, I can’t help wondering if it isn’t indulging in a little intelligent design of its own.

Don’t get me wrong: I don’t believe we should permit hardline Creationist schools to operate in this country. Why? Because they would teach children pseudoscience. Evolution is not merely one “theory” among many. The evidence for evolution by natural selection – and that includes the evolution of homo sapiens from its predecessors – is overwhelming. Nothing in biology makes sense without Darwin’s insights.

But none of these free schools will be allowed to teach “scientific” Creationism, with its brazen manipulation of the fossil record to “fit” the Book of Genesis, in science classes. Nor can they teach the marginally more sophisticated intelligent design, once nicely summed up as “creationism in a cheap tuxedo”.

Will these free schools merely shift Creationism’s fake science from biology to RE lessons? Michael Gove says they won’t be allowed to. Clearly, the situation needs to be monitored – in Islamic schools as well as Christian ones. (Islam is far and away the most important disseminator of Creationism in the modern world, a point rarely stressed by the BBC/Guardian.)

Actually, I’m not clear that these new schools are Creationist. The evangelical Christians who run them may privately reject evolution, in which case it’s the Government’s job to make sure that they don’t undermine the discoveries of scientists in any lessons. But Grindon Hall says the following: “[We do] not share the rigid creationist’s insistence on a literalistic interpretation of the first chapters of Genesis … We are therefore very happy to believe that God could have created the world in six days. But we do not feel that it is helpful to affirm it as an unarguable fact.” That’s what I regard as a traditional Christian viewpoint rather than anything an American fundamentalist would recognise as Creationism.

The nearest any of these schools get to “scientific” Creationism are the following statements from Grindon Hall:

*    We vigorously challenge the unscientific certainty often claimed by scientists surrounding the so-called “Big Bang” and origins generally.

*    We will teach evolution as an established scientific principle, as far as it goes.

*    We will teach creation as a scientific theory and we will always affirm very clearly our position as Christians, i.e. that Christians believe that God’s creation of the world is not just a theory but a fact with eternal consequences for our planet and for every person who has ever lived on it.

These sentences are too loosely phrased for us to be clear what, exactly, the school means by creation – or science, for that matter. Attempts to reconcile belief in God-as-creator and empirical data often produce evasive statements, not least in unthreatening mainstream denominations. As I say, if there’s a hidden agenda, then it’s the Government’s job to make sure it isn’t implemented.

The key challenge is distinguishing between religious cosmology and false empirical claims – not easy, but it has to be done. There is a difference between saying that God’s creation of the world doesn’t conflict with science and is therefore in some way “scientific”, and extracting  bogus science from the Bible or Koran. There’s also a difference between saying that evolution doesn’t explain everything (which is true) and claiming that there are significant holes in the theory (which there aren’t).

The reason I’ve used the word “witch-hunt” in the headline is that I suspect the real target of the BHA/Guardian campaign is not the teaching of pseudoscience in classrooms, but Christianity in general (this poisonous piece by Hadley Freeman captures the ultra-secularist mindset perfectly). Plus, of course, the institution of free schools, the success of which has infuriated the Left.

It poses the question: what do “humanists” fear more – the teaching of bad science, or the freedom of parents to run their own schools?


The great PE revolution: Every school child in Britain to play competitive sports

Every pupil in Britain will be expected to play competitive team sports under plans to be outlined by David Cameron tomorrow.

The Prime Minister is to reveal the primary school National Curriculum will be rewritten this autumn to ensure all pupils play proper sports.  The move will end the culture of ‘prizes for all’ which has afflicted some schools since the educational establishment decreed no one must fail in the 1960s.

It will also see trendy exercise classes in schools, such as ‘Indian dancing’, replaced by sports.

Mr Cameron will make compulsory competitive sport a centrepiece of his plans to secure a sporting legacy for Britain after the success of the Olympics.

Senior Government sources have told the Mail that the National Curriculum for secondary schools, which is expected to be revised next year, will also be changed to ensure those aged 11 to 18 engage in competitive sport.

At present, the curriculum covering PE is a jargon-filled eight-page document. This will be torn up and replaced by a one-page document, including a requirement for all primary school children to take part in competitive team sports.

Mr Cameron yesterday attacked the substitution of exercise activities for competitive sport at some schools which are simply trying to fill the two hours of sport a week required under Labour.  The Government has scrapped the two-hour rule to encourage schools to do more.

He said: ‘I see it with my own children. The two hours that is laid down is often met through sort of Indian dancing classes.  ‘Now, I’ve got nothing against Indian dancing classes but that’s not really sport.’

The new guidance will also teach older children to compare their performances so they can keep improving their personal best.

A commitment to teach all children to swim will remain in place.

Education Secretary Michael Gove will publish the new primary school rules in the autumn.

A senior Government source said: ‘There will be similar moves to boost competitive sport to be contained in the forthcoming secondary curriculum as well.’

Data from the Government’s PE and Sport Survey in 2009/10 showed that only 40 per cent of pupils did competitive sport regularly within their own school.

When he makes the formal announcement, Mr Cameron will say: ‘I want to use the example of competitive sport at the Olympics to lead a revival of competitive sport in primary schools. We need to end the “all must have prizes” culture and get children playing and enjoying competitive sports from a young age, linking them up with sports clubs so they can pursue their dreams.’

The Prime Minister yesterday said that in future schools will be expected to ‘have a proper sports day where we hand out medals’.

They will also be urged to ‘get athletes and Olympians’ into their schools to encourage pupils and link up with local sports clubs.

Ministers will stop short of telling schools how many hours a week they should dedicate to sport.  But Mr Cameron claimed yesterday that the two-hours-a-week target had led many schools to ‘think they’ve done their bit’ by meeting it when it wasn’t enough.

He also made clear that he would maintain funding for elite athletes, which has driven the success of Team GB at the London Games.  He said: ‘We will absolutely learn the lessons of the Australian experience,’ – referring to the fact that the country has slumped down the medal table since the Sydney Games of 2000 after funding cuts.

The Government has already committed to maintain funding until 2014. The Prime Minister is expected to signal tomorrow that that will be extended to cover the Rio games of 2016.

It is already pouring an extra £500million into sport via the National Lottery and has committed to spending £1billion over four years on school sports.

But Mr Cameron came under pressure from Labour leader Ed Miliband, who called for a ten-year cross-party plan for sport.  ‘It’s no good blaming the teachers, or blaming everybody else, for what’s happening in our schools,’ he said.


The latest electic car

The Renault Twizy has all the cons but none of the pros of a bicycle, says Neil Lyndon from London

The Renault Twizy was to be delivered to the house of friends in London with whom I was staying for the night. We were out at dinner when the car was unloaded.

Excited chatter and laughter were resounding in the night air as we turned into my friends’ street. Mobile phone cameras were flashing. Few cars could draw such a throng. People who would not even notice a Ferrari were elbowing to get a better look inside this tiny, high-domed two-seater that makes a Smart car look like a lorry.

It helped the crowd nosing around that my Twizy had doors but no windows; cheaper versions have no sides at all. As it was so evidently unsafe to park on the street, my friends asked the vicar of the church opposite to open his gated car park. I then had to insert my large body into the midget Twizy through its scissor door and figure out how to get it going, which made everyone fall about. The stages of start-up for this all-electric vehicle are obvious, as is the push-button transmission selector on the dashboard that simply offers D for a single-speed drive, N for neutral and R for reverse. But it took me about three minutes to wangle the parking-brake free, during which one of the audience declared that this show was better than the movies.

It’s fair to say, then, that life with a Twizy is one hassle after another – as it proved the next day when I took it out on the streets of London.

I had asked to borrow it while I was in London for the Olympics, thinking that such a tiny quadricycle, with a top range of 60 miles and a recharge time of three and a half hours, would be ideal for negotiating the clogged city streets. Wrong. Its makers describe the Twizy as being “unlike anything else on the road” but, to my mind, it combines all the most troublesome aspects of car, motorbike and bicycle.

Its four wheels outside its body mean that you may not drive in the bus lane. Those wide-set wheels also prevent you from threading through lines of stationary cars like a two-wheeler. The Twizy is so tiny that three could probably fit into a standard parking bay, but that’s not allowed either: each Twizy incurs a normal car’s charge. Its rear-mounted electric motor produces zero carbon emissions, making it exempt from London Congestion Charging and road tax, but that’s true of a bicycle, too, and you would not be much more exposed to the elements on a bicycle than in the open-sided Twizy.

Nippy and manoeuvrable though it is, the Twizy was far slower on my trip to the Olympic Park than my massive BMW R1200 RT motorbike would have been. My bike would also have been more comfortable and warmer. The Twizy lacks any heater or radio; the R1200 RT has both. The bike easily negotiates sleeping policemen; the Twizy hits them full square, with an impact through the uncushioned tandem seats like a kick in the pants.

Bus passengers enjoyed staring down into the Twizy so it’s an incomparable platform for narcissism; but, as a form of transport, you might be better off on foot with an umbrella.


Child’s tennis rackets destroyed by British airport security for being ‘lethal weapons’

A furious holidaymaker has condemned airport security staff after his child’s tennis rackets were confiscated and destroyed for being potentially ‘lethal weapons’.  Richard Chew was flying to the holiday island of Majorca with his nine-year-old stepson Will when they were forced to hand over the rackets.

Mr Chew, a 46-year-old PR, was stopped at Leeds Bradford Airport because of the alleged threat to other passengers as he travelled to see Will’s mother, Vicky Locklin, in Spain.

Bemused Richard said: ‘I appreciate that we live in a security-conscious age but this is ridiculous and I think they should allow the security services to exercise some common sense.  ‘All I had was two kids’ tennis rackets but they said I couldn’t take them through.

‘When I asked why they said it was because they were potentially lethal weapons. He actually said that I would be able to take it out of the bag and hit a steward or stewardess on the head with them rendering them unconscious.

‘I mean it’s possible but it takes a bit of a leap of imagination. You don’t hear many people sleeping next to a kid’s tennis racket just in case of a burglary, it’s really silly.  ‘He even told me that you can take small scissors on board and knitting needles. You could do more damage with them than a tennis racket.’

Richard added: ‘As a parting comment I asked him to make sure the rackets went to a good home, they’re not particularly good but could make a child who has just watched Murray win the gold very happy.

‘He replied by telling me they would be destroyed just like everything else that they confiscate. Apparently that’s what they have to do. It seems really stupid. Conversationally he told me that he had binned a 99 pound bottle of Gucci perfume that he had confiscated earlier.

‘It’s madness. If this is happening across the country then millions of pounds worth of perfectly good products are being thrown away when they could be given to those less fortunate or sold.

‘The Yorkshire Air Ambulance is actually based at the airport. Why not sell off the confiscated items and donate the money to them. I’m sure they would be very grateful.’

A spokeswoman for Leeds Bradford Airport said: ‘Government legislation dictates what can and cannot be used as hand luggage.   ‘All UK airports are mandated to adhere to government legislation, compliance in this matter is frequently audited.’


Barbarity that shames Britain

 One title this country most definitely does not want to win is European Capital of Female Genital Mutilation. Alas, that is the appalling situation we find ourselves in, thanks to the “cultural sensitivity” of the authorities. According to a recent shocking report for BBC Two’s Newsnight, at least 20,000 girls a year are at risk from this barbaric practice, with parents of African backgrounds actually bringing their small daughters to Britain because it has such a relaxed approach to child mutilation. In Bristol they are holding “FGM parties”, if you please.

A Scotland Yard inspector explained, in all seriousness, that pursuing such cases could be “akin to child abuse”. In other words, if parents decide to maim their daughter, the police are not going to examine that child for fear of causing trauma – or being considered racist. Weep at the perverse, politically correct logic.

It was “cultural sensitivity” and the cowardice of politicians that killed Shafilea Ahmed. Shafilea’s father and mother, both sentenced to life imprisonment at Chester Crown Court last Friday, may have held the plastic bag which suffocated the 17-year-old, but other hands are implicated in her wholly avoidable and desperately sad death.

Back in June, the Home Secretary finally announced plans to criminalise forced marriages. It should have happened under New Labour, but the same people who made calling a police horse “gay” a hate crime were reluctant to legislate to protect girls like Shafilea from rape by a stranger called “husband”. They dropped plans to make forced marriage a crime before the 2005 election, fearing that it would be resented by ethnic voters as an intrusion into minority cultures. I’m sure the idea that it would damage their majorities in predominantly Muslim Labour-voting constituencies didn’t enter into it, aren’t you?

It is damnable that it is possible for a young woman like Shafilea Ahmed to be beaten by her parents and for her cries for help to be ignored. It is outrageous that a British citizen can be taken to Pakistan against her will and has to swallow bleach to avoid a forced marriage.

The problem is Shafilea didn’t live in Britain. She lived in a country within a country, where the law of the land does not apply. As Mr Justice Evans said when he was sentencing Iftikhar and Farzana Ahmed for their daughter’s murder: “You chose to bring up your family in Warrington, but your social and cultural attitudes were those of rural Pakistan. Shafilea was a determined, able and ambitious girl who wanted to live a life which was normal in the country in which you had chosen to live and bring up your children. However, you could not tolerate the life that Shafilea wanted to live. You wanted your family to live in Pakistan in Warrington.”

Has there ever been a more furiously eloquent denunciation of the repressive country which has been allowed to flourish within our free nation? If so, I haven’t heard it. Mr Justice Evans was speaking up for Shafilea Ahmed and all those like her whose only crime is to want to participate fully in the society they were born into.

You only have to look at the story of Olympic champion Mo Farah to see what can happen when a family embraces their new country. Mo came to Britain from Somalia at the age of eight. With the encouragement of his PE teacher, Alan Wilkinson, he turned his talent for mischief into a gift for running. Mohammed Farah is a devout Muslim and a passionate Briton who wrapped his exhausted body in the Union flag on Saturday night and beamed for Britain. Now, that’s what I call cultural sensitivity.



About jonjayray

I am former member of the Australia-Soviet Friendship Society, former anarcho-capitalist and former member of the British Conservative party. The kneejerk response of the Green/Left to people who challenge them is to say that the challenger is in the pay of "Big Oil", "Big Business", "Big Pharma", "Exxon-Mobil", "The Pioneer Fund" or some other entity that they see, in their childish way, as a boogeyman. So I think it might be useful for me to point out that I have NEVER received one cent from anybody by way of support for what I write. As a retired person, I live entirely on my own investments. I do not work for anybody and I am not beholden to anybody
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