‘Hit squads’ to take over seven NHS trusts
Senior government lawyers and auditors are to be sent into seven NHS hospital trusts on the brink of bankruptcy which have been saddled with “absolutely disgraceful” private finance initiative contracts.
Simon Burns, the health minister, said that he will be sending in “hit squads” to make savings at hospitals where the contracts have gone “horribly wrong”.
He says that the deals show a “cavalier disregard” for taxpayers’ money and points out that hospitals are being forced to pay £242 for a padlock to be changed and £466 for a new light fitting.
Throughout the NHS, hospitals have signed PFI deals worth more than £79 billion, of which only eight per cent had been repaid by 2010. The deals involved private firms building and maintaining hospitals, with the money repaid over decades.
Mr Burns, who is the minister responsible for the day-to-day running of the NHS, said officials have identified £1.5 billion of savings which can be made.
Asked if the schemes were a mistake, he said: “In the form that they were agreed, with what, to my mind is a cavalier disregard for cost efficiency and value for taxpayers’ money, yes.”
The hospital trusts which need rescuing care for more than two million people. They are: Barking, Havering and Redbridge; Dartford and Gravesham; Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells; North Cumbria; Peterborough and Stamford Hospitals; and St Helens and Knowsley NHS Trust. Experts will also be sent into South London Healthcare which has already been taken over by a specialist management team. Between them, the seven trusts are responsible for 12 hospitals and several specialist centres. “There are these seven which are at the top of the scale, which are having a significant drag on their day-today running because of the PFI costs,” said Mr Burns.
“We have announced that we will help those seven trusts with financial assistance. Seven hospitals got it horribly wrong. It is an absolute disgrace.”
The hit squads of accountants and lawyers will attempt to renegotiate contracts at the most beleaguered trusts before their finances become unsustainable.
“The problem is some of these contracts are 2,000 pages long and realistically I suspect very few people have looked through them and been able to identify all the implications and potentials to make sure they are getting a good deal,” Mr Burns said.
Last year, Andrew Lansley, the Health Secretary, announced that more than 60 hospitals, run by 20 trusts, were facing financial difficulty because of PFI schemes. The decision to send in hit squads to the most troubled trusts underlines the growing concerns at the highest levels of government that patient care may soon start to suffer.
Mr Burns said the Government would not walk away from the contracts as it would leave the NHS facing years of legal disputes. He added that treatment was improving across the health service with waiting times and infection rates falling.
However, he is “frustrated” about the way “improvements” in the service are being covered by the BBC. “The vast majority of constituents tell you that they have been to the local hospital and were looked after magnificently,” he said. “But, then you say, ‘What do you think of the NHS?’ “’Oh, terrible problems.’ The reason for that is because of the drip, drip, drip effect of certain media outlets and politicians.”
Must not laugh at Muslims
It was probably unlikely that a TV comedy series about a Muslim community leader would pass without comment. And so it was that in the region of 200 complaints were made to the BBC yesterday after it broadcast the first episode of Citizen Khan. It was claimed that the programme ‘takes the mickey out of Islam’, was guilty of ‘stereotypes about Asians’ and was ‘disrespectful to the Koran’.
One scene that particularly provoked anger was where a heavily-made up girl, Mr Khan’s daughter, rushed to put on a hijab and pretended to be reading the Koran when her father entered.
The six-part series, which aired for the first time on BBC1 on Monday at 10.35pm, has been created by British Muslim Adil Ray, who also plays the lead role.
One viewer wrote on the BBC’s messageboard: ‘This is terrible stereotyping, ignorant and just dreadful.’
Another said: ‘HIGHLY disappointed especially when her father walks in and she dis-respectfully opens the Koran!!’
But others defended the show. One said: ‘People are reading too much in to Citizen Khan, especially the hijab thing, it happens!’
The series stars former My Family actor Kris Marshall as the mosque manager and Shobu Kapoor, who is known for her work on EastEnders, who plays Mr Khan’s wife.
The comedy mocks Mr Khan’s self-importance, including his delusions about his position in the community and about his standing in the business world.
Critics have complained that it repeats many stereotypes about British Muslims, with the first episode all about the troubled wedding plans of one of Mr Khan’s daughters.
Some claimed while Goodness Gracious Me, the acclaimed BBC2 Asian sketch show, had challenged stereotypes, the new show reinforced them. The two other writers on the show, Anil Gupta and Richard Pinto, had both worked on Goodness Gracious Me.
A BBC spokesman said: ‘Citizen Khan has made a very positive start, launching successfully with 3.6million viewers and a 21.5 per cent share in a late night slot.
‘New comedy always provokes differing reactions from the audience. The characters are comic creations and not meant to be representative of the community as a whole.’
In a recent interview with BBC Breakfast, Mr Ray said the show was allowing the Muslim community to laugh at itself. He said: ‘I think it is a great opportunity, with Mr Khan as a Pakistani Muslim and the character, to take that kind of really rich content and laugh at ourselves and I am a firm believer in that.’
British govt. slashes health and safety guidance for schools
More than 95 per cent of health and safety guidance issued to schools has been slashed as part of a Coalition purge on red tape, figures show.
Under Labour, teachers were issued with 150 pages of guidelines designed to keep pupils safe in the classroom and on school trips but the number has since been cut to just eight, it has emerged.
The drop was outlined as official figures revealed for the first time the extent to which education bureaucracy has been reduced over the last two years. In total, more than three-quarters of official edicts issued schools under the last Government have now been abolished.
State primaries and secondaries in England are now issued with just 6,978 pages of guidance compared with 28,455 pages previously.
Axed documents include the all-out abolition of a 200-page guide to “reducing bureaucracy”, while guidance on “improving pupil performance” has been cut from 2,524 pages to just 174. Another volume on “pedagogy and practice“ has been reduced from 1,959 pages to 63.
The Coalition has faced criticism over its drive to cut education guidance.
Earlier this year, Jamie Oliver, the TV chef, claimed that the Government was jeopardising pupils’ health after announcing that a new wave of academies and free schools would be exempt from nutritional standards governing school dinners.
This month, it was revealed the ministers had abolished school sports survey – including a target that pupils must complete two hours of PE a week – prompting claims that it would undermine the Olympic legacy.
But Elizabeth Truss, the Conservative MP for South West Norfolk, who obtained the figures following a series of Parliamentary questions, said the last Government “bombarded teachers with bureaucratic, unreadable guidance” that actually undermined education standards.
“28,000 pages of guidance is not only a massive burden, it also diminishes the trust and responsibility that should be given to teachers,” she said.
“This Government has made huge strides towards reducing the burden of guidance on schools, slashing the total by three-quarters.”
New figures show that teachers are no longer given guidance on handling the media. In the past, they were issued with 188 pages on the subject.
Guidance on health and safety has been dramatically trimmed to just eight pages. This follows concerns that some schools were axing traditional science experiments or school trips amid fears over safety rules.
The number of pages of guidance on science, technology, engineering and maths was cut from 765 pages to nothing, while documents relating to work-based learning were also axed altogether.
Other guidance cut significantly relates to issues such as admissions, attendance, behaviour, the curriculum, equality, finance, qualifications, special needs, staffing and target setting.
A cry of rage at beauty ideals
The British lady writing below exudes rage very ably but I cannot see that she makes any argument against Western beauty ideals and those who are influenced by them. Anger and abuse is supposed to substitute for rational argument, apparently. Very Leftist. But it IS from “The Guardian” so most of its readers will simply enjoy the injection of rage, regardless of its intolerance
I don’t actually see that she CAN make an argument against aesthetic preferences: “De gustibus non disputandum est”. So perhaps rage is all that is left.
The author’s facial skin (below) looks rather stretched. I wonder ….. Leftist hypocrisy would be nothing new
This weekend, I am off to interview a young Hollywood starlet. She is pale-skinned, blue-eyed, with golden hair falling lustrously about her shoulders. She resembles nothing less than a modern take on Botticelli’s Venus, short merely of a clamshell. On closer inspection, this goddess is not actually that beautiful – charming certainly, but without the harmonious symmetry of planes and plumpness conventional notions demand. And, yet, she has The Package: the constituents that are perceived to win her leading roles and heartthrob boyfriends, and are a source of emulation for millions – punishingly so for some.
Meanwhile, on the cover of September’s O, or Oprah magazine – Winfrey’s influential “empowerment”-focused organ – our heroine is shown letting her hair down, or rather up and out. For, behold, she is sporting a lavish afro rather than the Wasp blow-dry she usually favours – as advocated by the $9bn black hair industry examined in Chris Rock’s 2009 documentary, Good Hair. Winfrey, at 58, has never looked more beautiful.
Yet, even for a woman who has championed both black and feminist causes – and embodied Toni Morrison characters – this is clearly A Big Deal, requiring editorial explanation. The daytime diva reveals that she likes feeling “unencumbered” with natural hair: “But it’s hard to manage daily … in order for me not to look, as Gayle says, ‘like you put your finger in a light socket’.” Gayle is Gayle King, a woman who appears similarly wedded to her straighteners.
One is uncomfortably reminded of postcolonial theorist Frantz Fanon’s arguments in his seminal 1952 study Black Skin, White Masks, where black upward mobility is expressed via stringent, self-policing white imitation. Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye (1970) also comes to mind, in which self-loathing Pecola Breedlove prays each night for whiteness. Meanwhile, its narrator, Claudia MacTeer, is presented with a succession of “blue-eyed, yellow-haired, pink-skinned” baby dolls: “‘Here,’ they said, ‘this is beautiful, and if you are on this day “worthy” you may have it’.”
I bow to no one in my love of lipstick, powder and paint, and the jubilant creativity in their wielding. Ornamentation rituals are a defining feature of human society: first we get food and fire sorted, then we daub cave walls and ourselves. However, in too many parts of the world “because you’re worth it” translates as Morrison’s “‘this is beautiful, and if you are on this day “worthy” you may have it'”.
In India, an estimated 40% of the nation uses face whiteners, since pallor – like straightened black hair in America – is considered both professionally and sexually desirable. This year, its citizens are expected to spend half a billion dollars on such products, up 15% from 2011. Companies such as Unilever, L’Oréal and Garnier are reaping vast profits using Bollywood stars as role models. Yet, where 700 million Indians are living on less than $2 a day, perilous, unbranded chemical options are rife.
In China, similarly racial, indeed racist, reinventions abound, most obviously in the realm of plastic surgery. Chinese surgeons undertake 13% of global procedures, generating some 20,000 complaints about disfigurement a year. Typical interventions include eyelid modification to create an upper-lid crease, rhinoplasty to raise the nose, cheek implants and even sole implants in the feet to make patients taller.
Evidence also issues from traditionally wealthy nations. In Japan, breast enlargements are deployed to create a western “bon-kyu-bon” (“big-small-big”, or hourglass) figure. In New York, where a century ago Jews were having nose jobs and the Irish ear-pinning to assimilate, Asians and Latinos are queuing up at surgeries in immigrant neighbourhoods.
Naomi Wolf’s Beauty Myth of 1991 posited the thesis that the beauty industry promulgates a cultural, economic and ideological scam. However, it is no less than an empire: a form of stealth imperialism in which self-harm is weapon-in-chief. Perhaps, in time, as China and India consolidate their positions as the new global superpowers, the west will learn to crave eastern pulchritude, ridding itself of blondness and blue eyes accordingly.
Animal Rights Group Calls Sport Hunting Magazines ‘Shooting Porn’ and Wants to Ban Kids from Seeing Them
An animal rights group in the U.K. came out with a report Monday saying gun magazines are “shooting porn” that should be banned from sale to minors.
In its report “Gunning For Children: How the gun lobby recruits young blood,“ Animal Aid says that such ”lurid, pro-violence content could have a corrosive, long-lasting effect on impressionable young minds.”
The group believes these magazines should be considered “top shelf” and banned from sale to customers younger than 18. Animal Aid says this action”could deal a serious blow to a gun lobby that is desperate to recruit youngsters to counter a declining constituency.” In England and Wales, the group notes, licenses for shotguns have been declining for the last two decades.
Tyler goes on to say youth who engage in sport hunting in urban areas are “considered dysfunctional and a social menace.”
Gun advocates are dismissive of the report and its claims. The Daily Telegraph reports Simon Clarke of the British Association of Shooting and Conservation saying the magazines only promote responsible use of the firearms and that the animal’s death is not inappropriately glorified.
David Taylor with the Countryside Alliance told the Telegraph the magazines also show how hunting is a vital part of the rural economy