A fifth of British women in labour left without a midwife: survey
A fifth of women were left without a midwife during labour, contrary to official guidance, due to a shortage of staff, a survey has found. It could mean 120,000 women are left unsupported at a crucial time in their labour, the Royal College of Midwives warned.
The survey also found a third of expectant mothers saw a different midwife every time they needed an antenatal check-up.
In May, ministers reiterated the pledge that new mothers that they would have one midwife who would oversee their antenatal care, a one-to-one midwife during labour and birth and a choice over how and where they have their babies.
The College is campaigning for 5,000 more midwives. But a survey by the Royal College of Midwives (RCM) and Bounty Parenting Club of over 1,800 women who were pregnant or recently gave birth in England shows “worrying shortfalls”, said campaigners.
A fifth of women said they did not have a choice over how or where they gave birth. Around 18 per cent said they were not fully supported during their labour and birth. Almost half of women (47%) said they would have liked more time with their midwife during pregnancy.
Ministers also promised to support women after they gave birth, with special care for those suffering from postnatal depression. But a third of women said they did not feel supported after their child was born.
The RCM said the data showed that while some progress has been made, the Government “has a lot of ground to make up to meet its promises” on maternity services in England.
Cathy Warwick, chief executive of the Royal College of Midwives, said: “The Government says it is committed to providing better maternity care and we endorse the pledges they have made. However, actions speak louder than words and this survey shows that there are many challenges ahead to ensure their promises are delivered across England. “It throws up many areas of concern and highlights the pressing need for sustained investment in maternity services and in midwives.”
Elizabeth Duff, senior policy adviser for charity, the National Childbirth Trust, said: “The survey shows some progress towards fulfilment of these pledges, all of which are based upon good evidence of benefit for women and their babies. “However, there remain some shortfalls which are worrying for those who are pregnant or planning a baby soon.
“NCT asks the Government to ensure its own evidence-based policy is 100% in place by bringing midwifery staffing up to the appropriate levels and providing access to care in a midwifery-led unit for every healthy woman with a straightforward pregnancy.”
Katherine Murphy, chief executive of the Patients Association, added: “This important survey demonstrates clearly that more progress can and should be made to improve patient experiences of maternity services.
“There is a real opportunity for targeted investment in training and numbers of midwives which would deliver key milestones such as universal guarantees for all women to have a named midwife.”
The tangled tale of Lord Deben and a dodgy Severn barrage
A proposal for the biggest infrastructure project in British history has shaky foundations but some powerful friends
The corruptocrat himself above
An extraordinary picture of the state of our public life has come to light in recent days, in accounts of the involvement of some of our most senior politicians in the vast, lucrative and expanding industry of “renewable energy”.
At the centre of the picture is David Cameron, who last month nominated Lord Deben (formerly John Gummer) as the new chairman of the influential and supposedly “independent” Committee on Climate Change, set up to advise government on energy policy under the Climate Change Act. This is despite the fact that Lord Deben’s array of environmental business interests includes chairmanship of Forewind Ltd, a consortium of four energy firms planning the world’s largest, and most heavily subsidised, offshore wind farm in the North Sea.
Lord Deben’s suitability will be assessed on September 4, when he is interviewed by the Commons select committee on energy and climate change, chaired by Tim Yeo MP. Yeo was a junior environment minister under Lord Deben when the latter was environment secretary in the 1990s.
Mr Cameron has also lately taken a very active interest in a new £30 billion project for a tidal barrage across the Severn estuary, which he discussed at Downing Street last month with the former Labour Cabinet minister Peter Hain, acting on behalf of a consortium organised by a tiny Welsh company, Corlan Hafren – of which Deben was until very recently a director.
Attention has lately been drawn to the declared business interests of both Lord Deben and Mr Yeo – who last year earned more than £200,000, on top of his MP’s salary of £80,000, working for companies mostly involved in “green” energy schemes. The apparent exception was his role as “environmental adviser” to Eurotunnel, by whom he was paid up to £1,000 an hour. But Eurotunnel, it turns out, is planning to run a £220 million “interconnector” power cable through its service tunnel, to provide back-up from French nuclear power stations for the times when our wind turbines don’t supply enough power to the national grid.
Turbines – of the type that earn Mr Cameron’s father-in-law, Sir Reginald Sheffield, £1,000 a day on his Lincolnshire estate – are so unreliable that they could never hope to meet our EU obligation to source nearly a third of our electricity from “renewables” within seven years. That is 10 times more than wind power generates at present. Hence Mr Cameron’s sudden interest in a new Severn barrage scheme (though the idea was rejected by the Coalition in 2010 as being far too expensive) and his talks with the peculiar little company Corlan Hafren, which we are told could supply “5 per cent” of our electricity needs by 2022 with a new version of the barrage, funded by more than £30 billion from “Kuwait, Qatar and other sovereign wealth funds”.
Until last week, Companies House showed Lord Deben as a director of the company, which has registered assets of only £91. Listed among its shareholders, the largest of whom is a formerly bankrupt Welsh property entrepreneur, is another company, holding a sixth of the shares, with the imposing name of Sancroft International. Thanks to diligent researches by readers of the climate-sceptic blog Bishop Hill, it emerges that the six shareholders of Sancroft, an environmental consultancy which also acts as a vehicle for the earnings of Lord Deben, are Deben himself, his wife and their four children, one of whom, Ben Gummer, is a Tory MP.
All of which might focus further attention on the proposed Severn barrage itself, a vast concrete wall stretching 11 miles across the Bristol Channel from Somerset to south Wales, possibly incorporating a motorway and a railway, and also 1,000 turbines, which, we are told, would have the “capacity” to generate “6.5 gigawatts” of electricity. But what is often not understood about tidal barrages is that, like wind turbines, they only generate power intermittently, according to the tides. So the actual output of a Severn barrage, as confirmed in 2007 by Sir Jonathon Porritt’s Sustainable Development Commission, would only be 22 per cent of its “capacity”.
In other words, the barrage’s contribution to the grid would average out at only 1.43 gigawatts, which is roughly the same as the power produced, much more consistently, by one large gas-fired power station – costing only £1 billion to build. A single nuclear power station, such as that proposed for Hinkley Point further down the estuary, could produce the same amount for a fraction of the same capital investment and with only minimal fuel costs. The barrage would thus be a ludicrously expensive way to produce a relatively small amount of electricity.
So, firstly, why has the idea of wasting so much money suddenly so seized Mr Cameron that he has asked Oliver Letwin to liaise with Corlan Hafren in pushing the scheme, which we are told would be piloted through the Commons by Mr Hain? The answer seems to be that the Prime Minister is now uncomfortably aware that he hasn’t a hope of meeting that EU renewables target with wind turbines (and Brussels does not count nuclear power as “renewable”). Furthermore, what would be the biggest infrastructure project in our history might temporarily create, it is claimed, “30,000 jobs”. What the PM probably doesn’t understand, because his advisers might not have told him, is just how small a contribution the scheme would make to our EU target.
What makes this even odder, however, is that the Government could contemplate handing such a mammoth project to a company which is currently showing only £91 in its accounts, representing the contributions of its various shareholders. The answer to this puzzle must lie in the central involvement in the company of Lord Deben, who in 2007 was commissioned by Mr Cameron to produce a report for the Conservative Party entitled Blueprint for a Green Economy. Sancroft’s current managing director is Adrian Gahan, formerly Mr Cameron’s adviser on energy and climate change policy, who played a key part. behind the scenes. in pushing the Climate Change Act through Parliament.
There were signs last week that Lord Deben was anxious to distance himself from the controversy building up around his involvement with Corlan Hafren. He told The Guardian that he had not been a director since June, although this was only registered with Companies House last Monday. But we must return to the question we began with: is it really acceptable that in 10 days’ time the confirmation of his chairmanship of the most influential body guiding government policy on energy and climate change should be in the hands of a committee of MPs chaired by Tim Yeo? This means that these two men at the centre of shaping our energy future are both involved financially with an industry which stands to make billions from what is, potentially, one of the most dangerous wrong turns in our country’s history.
As I have observed before, the Severn barrage would not only be a grotesque waste of money, but would have a devastating affect on the ecology of the lower Severn estuary, damaging inter alia the tidal flats where huge numbers of wading birds feed. This has provoked opposition from an array of environmental lobby groups, including the RSPB, Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth, who claim that it would be illegal under the EU’s Habitats Directive.
The new scheme, it is claimed by Corlan Hafren, would get round this by leaving more of the mudflats exposed, making it possible for us to claim to Brussels that we were providing the birds with “compensation” habitat for that which was lost.
The last time this trick was played, on a much smaller scale, was when a Cardiff Bay barrage was proposed in the 1990s. The government then got its way with Brussels by promising “compensation” feeding grounds further up the coast, by allowing the sea to flood a large area of the Gwent Levels, which had been reclaimed from it since Roman times. The environment minister who negotiated this device for getting round the EU law was none other than John Selwyn Gummer. But it would be much harder to convince the EU that a barrage right across the estuary – putting an end, among much else, to the Severn Bore – was not in serious breach of the Habitats Directive.
How ironic it would be, then, if a monster project conceived only to meet our obligations under one EU directive – since Article 5(2) of the Renewables Directive was originally drafted, on Britain’s insistence, specifically to permit a Severn barrage, though it is now more generally worded – was found to be illegal under another EU directive.
For this and other reasons, I very much doubt that Lord Deben’s pie-in-the-sky scheme will ever go ahead. But he can always console himself financially with his earnings from that monster wind farm in the North Sea. It should provide enough for a chairman of the Committee on Climate Change to retire on quite comfortably.
In the home of Big Brother: Drones to watch over UK streets
Orwell knew his own country well
Unmanned police drones, comparable to those used in war zones such as Afghanistan, could soon be secretly watching over the streets of UK cities, according to a National Police Air Service director.
The unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) are being considered to monitor crowded events in Britain, such as concerts and festivals, as soon as the aerial units become cost-effective.
“I see unmanned systems as part of the future. There is an aircraft over London all the time — every day, giving images back. Why does it need to be a very expensive helicopter? If somebody gave me an unmanned system that I could use as I use a helicopter at half the cost, within the regulations, I would buy it tomorrow.” Superintendent Richard Watson said in a presentation to the defense industry, reports The Times.
Some police precincts have tried using the remote-controlled system to curb crime. Now the idea is to implement the drone policy nationwide.
Watson said that one manufacturer had proposed an 81-million-pound (around US$127 million) system in a deal that far exceeds the annual National Police Air Service budget of a little over 60 million pounds ($95 million), reports The Telegraph.
The UK already has a drone manufacturing industry and infrastructure. In August 2005, a contract was awarded to Thales UK, worth around 700 million pounds ($1.1 billion), to create the Watchkeeper Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Program, to support the UK’s war effort in Afghanistan, reports Defense Industry Daily. The program was also designed to create around 2000 high-quality manufacturing jobs in the country.
Ultramodern drones will also be deployed for the first time in Northern Ireland on Friday in a missing person search, reports the Belfast Telegraph.
Earlier this month, The Mail reported that UAVs will be used to scoop out terrorists, smugglers and illegal immigrants along Britain’s shores as part of the EU wide project.
The European Commission has allocated 260 million pounds ($412 million) for the “Eurosur” project, which also includes a surveillance plan to patrol the Mediterranean coast.
Simultaneously, several schemes are underway in UK, aiming to develop civilian roles for systems based on the drones used to locate and destroy militants in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
British defense companies are testing the high-tech military-grade cameras on UAVs over the Irish Sea.
At the same time, The Mail has discovered that Kent Police are involved in a 3-million-pound ($5 millions) venture with partners in the UK, France and the Netherlands to study the use of drones to guard the English Channel.
British Universities minister defends plans to ‘name and shame’ useless degrees
David Willetts, the universities minister, has defended plans to “name and shame” degrees with poor job prospects under a new ranking system.
The measure is part of the most radical shake-up of the higher education system in decades, under which institutions will be ranked by graduate employment rates and salaries.
Mr Willetts said the Government was looking for a “transformation” in the amount of information students receive in proposals outlined in the long-awaited White Paper on higher education.
In an interview with BBC Breakfast, he said: “There are some courses that are far better at preparing young people for the world of work than others. At the moment, the student finds it very hard to get that information.
“In future, they are going to be able to see “if I do biological sciences at one university, I have got a much better chance of a job in a pharmaceutical company than if I do biological sciences at a different university”.”
The White Paper being published on Tuesday will outline plans to force all institutions in England to publish data on 16 different areas to give students greater choice between courses.
For the first time, all universities will be forced to release detailed figures setting out how many students leave with well-paid jobs as well as average graduate starting salaries.
Other data is expected to cover criteria such as teaching hours, lecture sizes, accommodation costs and standards of student facilities.
Under plans, the information will be fed into new price comparison-style websites that shame the worst-performing universities and allow students to apply to the best institutions.
The move is being seen as a trade off for allowing universities to impose far higher tuition fees – ensuring students gain maximum value for their additional investment.
It follows claims that some students are currently being misled by vague promises made in glossy prospectuses handed out as teenagers apply to different universities.
The changes will be outlined as part of a long-awaited White Paper designed to map out the future direction of higher education to coincide with a decision to almost triple the cap on student fees to £9,000 from next year.
It will propose creating a market-based system in higher education and promoting more competition between institutions.
The document – originally promised in the New Year – will also:
*Toughen up the Office for Fair Access in a move that could see universities hit with new fines for failing to admit enough students from poor backgrounds;
*Give students more powers to trigger an official inspection by the Quality Assurance Agency – the standards watchdog – if teaching is not good enough;
*Force universities to reveal the A-levels needed to secure entry onto different courses, ensure students pick tough courses in the sixth-form instead of “soft” options that are often rejected by selective institutions;
*Remove barriers for private universities to provide degree courses by ensuring more students can take out the same Government-backed loans to study at them;
*Create a new “kitemark” system in which top companies can accredit courses producing the most skilled graduates.
In a key change, the White Paper will also relax the existing strict quotas controlling the number of students each university can recruit.
Under the reforms being announced by Mr Willetts, up to one-in-10 undergraduate places will be placed into an “auction”, allowing universities to bid for extra students.
It suggests that institutions with the cheapest tuition fees will be allowed to expand to keep the student loans bill down.
Universities will also be allowed to compete against each other to recruit the 55,000 students currently leaving school with top A-level grades – two As and a B.
Each university will be able to admit as many of these students as they wish. The change is unlikely to cost the taxpayer any more money as almost all of these sixth-formers already go on to university, but it will create a “new elite” as the best institutions take more top students at the expense of competitors.
A Whitehall source said: “The reforms are all about ensuring that students get their money’s worth. We’re asking graduates to contribute more once they are earning so it is only right that universities deliver for students.
“Universities will become more accountable to students and they will have to be far more transparent about what they are offering.”
But John Denham, Labour’s shadow business secretary, said: “It is clear that this White Paper, already months late, will be another example of the Tory-led Government making it up as they go along.
“The White Paper will sacrifice quality in an attempt to tackle the fees crisis caused by Government incompetence.”
Britain’s ‘A-grade’ children can’t even manage a paper round
By Peter Hitchens
How we used to jeer at the Soviet Union for claiming record tractor production, record wheat production and record economic growth. These fatuous lies were obvious falsehoods, in a country where the fields were full of weeds, the factories rusty museums of incompetence and waste, and life a series of queues for rare, wonky consumer goods and unfresh food.
But our own official figures are now just as laughably false. The worst of all are the annual claims that our schools are producing a new generation of brilliant wonder-children.
A Tory MP called Graham Stuart, who as chairman of the House of Commons Education Committee ought to know better, actually said on the radio on Thursday: ‘The standard of performance is better than it’s ever been, the teaching’s better and the children are cleverer than ever before.’
Presumably that’s why my local newsagents now employ pensioners to deliver papers, and most of the hard-graft jobs for young people in this country are done by migrants from Eastern Europe. Our own children are just too clever to do paper rounds, or work on a building site.
If Mr Stuart is typical of our lawmakers, it strikes me that they too could all be profitably replaced by pensioners or Poles.
Does he really believe what he says?
For more than a decade, people like me have been abused and denounced because we dared to point out that British school standards were falling, and that our benchmark examinations were being watered down.
There was good evidence for this. The Engineering Council noted 12 years ago that maths standards at A-level had fallen by objective measures. They blamed a softer syllabus.
Durham University, by equally objective methods, found a similar rise in grades – unmatched by a rise in standards – in other subjects.
Now our case is absolutely proved, by the sudden halt in ever-improving grades. This was caused by a simple warning from the government, requiring the exam boards to show that any more ‘improvement’ was justified by better-quality work.
And yet the lies continue.
The BBC, which in my view rightly doubts George Osborne’s pitiful economic policies, has never questioned the absurd Stalinist claims of our education industry, or our equally ridiculous crime figures, apparently compiled in Toytown by Noddy and Mr Plod.
That is because the causes of our wretched education standards, and of our ever-increasing disorder, lie in the failed Left-wing policies of the Sixties.
The BBC passionately supports these policies, and the Tory Party has adopted them just as their utter failure has become evident to anyone with a spark of intelligence.