Top consultant: ‘We are haemorrhaging doctors because of A&E chaos’
Chaos in Britain’s accident and emergency departments has left junior doctors unwilling to train to become emergency medicine specialists.
The College of Emergency Medicine held crisis talks with Ministers from the Department of Health over the issue earlier this month because it has left hospitals with a serious shortage of A&E doctors.
About half of the annual 180 training posts available to junior doctors in the specialism have not been filled for the past two years as young medics are put off by the intense workload and failure of hospitals to increase staff numbers to match the number of patients being admitted.
This is exacerbated by the fact that ten per cent of all full-time consultant posts in casualty are unfilled because those training in the NHS have opted to go abroad to work, rather than stay in an overstretched service.
Dr Clifford Mann, registrar at the College of Emergency Medicine, told The Mail on Sunday this has meant that half of the 220 A&E units across the country are understaffed, putting huge pressure on already overworked doctors and nurses and raising concerns that the situation could put patients at risk.
He said the shortages will ‘undoubtedly’ have contributed to the closures or downgrading of emergency departments across the country as hospitals struggle to find enough doctors to staff their services. The revelations are the latest crisis to hit A&E departments and have emerged following The Mail on Sunday’s campaign to halt the closures.
More than 30,000 readers have now signed our petition calling on Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt to stop the cuts unless the case to make the changes is approved by the public.
Ministers have so far remained silent on the issue, but The Mail on Sunday understands the Department of Health is taking the problem of staff shortages seriously and will, for the first time, be monitoring NHS staffing levels as part of its winter planning process. There have been several meetings between Ministers and the College to discuss the problem.
Dr Mann, an emergency medicine consultant at Taunton and Somerset NHS Trust, said: ‘The key message isn’t so much the vacancies out there, but that there’s no one coming through to fill them.
‘We’re striving to deliver a high-quality service but the job is seen as unattractive by junior doctors, and we are haemorrhaging trainees and suffering an unprecedented loss of consultants.
‘A&E departments are the places most people use in a hospital – there were 20 million attendances last year – but they don’t have the same level of resources as other areas.
In surveys of trainee doctors by the General Medical Council, emergency medicine scores very badly for workload and work intensity compared with other specialisms. Junior doctors look at these surveys and think, “I quite enjoyed A&E but it nearly killed me and I’m not sure I want to do it for 40 years.” ’
Dr Mann said he knew of several consultants who had quit to work abroad where conditions are generally better and financial rewards greater.
‘I quite enjoyed A&E but it nearly killed me and I’m not sure I want to do it for 40 years.’ ‘The key is to make the job more attractive – which at the moment, with increasing numbers of patients and fewer staff than ever, is not a simple task,’ he said.
Professor Alastair Wilson, senior emergency medicine consultant at the Royal London Hospital, also criticised the closures and called on the Department of Health to intervene.
Several A&E units in London are earmarked for potential closure and Prof Wilson said: ‘We have probably reached the point where we can’t keep closing units.
The Government needs to recognise it’s on a greasy slope. If everyone is tightening their belts, we cannot have a system that works.’
A Department of Health spokesman said yesterday the number of consultant emergency doctors had increased by more than 50 per cent in the past five years and that more patients who had minor injuries were treated by GPs and emergency nurse practitioners.
He added: ‘We have asked NHS and social services to assure themselves that they have capacity ahead of winter. This includes assurance over staffing in A&E departments.’
Lavish ‘Oscars’ party and champagne reception for 300 staff at crisis-hit hospital
A hospital trust that closed an A&E unit last year has been criticised for hosting a lavish black-tie dinner show for nearly 300 members of staff.
The three-course dinner and champagne reception on Friday night was described by the trust’s chairman as ‘our equivalent of the Oscars’. The event, called Shining Stars, was held to recognise the efforts of staff and volunteers at North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust. Senior doctors, directors and the trust chairman and chief executive attended.
Hartlepool’s A&E unit was closed in 2011 after being declared unfit for purpose. It has been replaced by an urgent care centre, and patients now have to travel half an hour to Stockton-on-Tees or Sunderland for emergency care.
One disgruntled local said: ‘It is disgusting that money and time is spent on dinner dances when we the residents of Hartlepool are being left without A&E services.’
The trust said the event, at the Wynyard Rooms on Teesside, was paid for by sponsors and the hospital’s general trust, which allocates money to be spent on staff.
‘When asked where the money from the general trust came from, it did not respond.
Clare Curran, director of human resources for the trust, said: ‘We find it disappointing that anyone would criticise this event, which acknowledges the fantastic work done by our staff and volunteers.’
The Left’s redwashing of the First World War
I often point out that it was Tirpitz and his rapidly expanding “Kriegsmarine” (navy) that drew Britain into WWI so I am pleased to see the same point below. The battle of Jutland showed that the British fears were well-founded. Admiral Scheer and the Hochseeflotte ran rings around the huge British fleet — JR
As Richard Holmes once wrote: “The Western Front smoulders darkly in the middle of Britain’s national consciousness, like some exhausted volcano whose once-deadly lava still marks our landscape.”
The centenary of the start of the Great War approaches, and the Government has already announced plans to commemorate the event in which close to a million Britons lost their lives. The think-tank British Future has also called for special events, such as the closing of shops and flags flying at half-mast, which I think is something we should all get behind.
Why is it important we commemorate the war? Out of respect for the men who died, of course, and to help us appreciate that we are free because of them. But these moments of collective national mourning are also important events in an atomised society, and give us a sense of togetherness and the sacred (and because this was a war in which troops from all over the Empire fought for Britain, it’s something that the children of immigrants are part of too). They are certainly not for glorifying war.
Not everyone is so keen on the idea, of course, and this has much to do with the argument still raging over the justness of the war. Seumas Milne of the Guardian is horrified:
This wasn’t a war of self-defence, let alone liberation from tyranny. As the late Eric Hobsbawm sets out in his Age of Empire, it was the cataclysmic product of an escalating struggle for colonial possessions, markets, resources and industrial power between the dominant European empires, Britain and France, and the rising imperial power of Germany seeking its “place in the sun”. In that clash of empires, Europe devoured its children – and many of its captive peoples with them.
Every generation sees the past through its own eyes, obviously, and the current view of the First World War was shaped first by the anti-war plays of the early 1930s and then by the 1960s, by the works of AJP Taylor and Alan Clark and by popular culture such as Joan Littlewood’s 1963 production of Oh! What a Lovely War! (and Richard Attenborough 1969 film).
In more recent times, Blackadder Goes Forth has helped to cement the idea of “a war which would have been a damn sight simpler if we’d just stayed in England and shot 50,000 of our men a week”.
But Hobsbawm’s and Milne’s view says more about late 20th century Leftist anti-imperialism than the actual lead-up to the Great War, which in the West had little to do with empire. Britain was dragged into this conflict not because of imperialism or capitalism but fears over Germany’s navy, which threatened the British Isles. As many an imperial people have found, the British will sacrifice their safety and wellbeing if it suits them, but they will not compromise the security of the home islands.
The paranoia that began to overcome the British public in the first years of last century reflected a genuine fear of German invasion, with books such as Erskine Childers’s Riddle of the Sands, Walter Wood’s The Enemy in our Midst, Captain Curtis’s When England Slept and William Le Queux’s The Invasion of 1910. There was also the Zeppelin hysteria, with German airships being seen by credulous members of the public all over the British Isles.
The British did not go to war over some sausage factory in Tanganyika.
Neither is it fair to claim that it was an unjust war. Such is the unambiguous evil of the German regime of the second war that it’s largely forgotten that Germany in 1914 was a militaristic Right-wing dictatorship led by a monarch of unsound mind. The German military command bore most of the responsibility for starting the conflict; in contrast almost no one in Britain wanted a war, and the Liberal Party agonised as events pushed the country into helping France (especially as the French had moved their Navy on British assurances). Germany’s regime made it clear it intended to invade Belgium – how could any country interested in its own safety allow a neighbour to be occupied by the region’s strongest power?
An interesting counter-factual is what might have happened had Wilhelm’s father Kaiser Frederick III lived longer. This “Barbarossa of German liberalism” planned to reduce the monarch’s power and turn Germany into a British-style parliamentary democracy, and it seems unlikely that a social democrat-dominated Germany would have followed such an aggressive, undiplomatic European policy.
As it is 900,000 British soldiers were slaughtered, which remains a tragedy incomprehensible to us, but while we can criticise the Army’s conduct of the war, to suggest that all those men were killed for “colonial powers and markets” is to redwash British history.
Rowan Atkinson: we must be allowed to insult each other
Rowan Atkinson has launched a campaign for a change in the law that bans “insulting words and behaviour”.
The Blackadder and Mr Bean star attacked the “creeping culture of censoriousness” which has resulted in the arrest of a Christian preacher, a critic of Scientology and even a student making a joke, it was reported.
He criticised the “new intolerance” as he called for part of it the Public Order Act to be repealed, saying it was having a “chilling effect on free expression and free protest”.
Mr Atkinson said: “The clear problem of the outlawing of insult is that too many things can be interpreted as such. Criticism, ridicule, sarcasm, merely stating an alternative point of view to the orthodoxy, can be interpreted as insult.”
Police and prosecutors are accused of being over-zealous in their interpretation of Section 5 of the Act, which outlaws threatening, abusive and insulting words or behaviour, the Daily Mail reported.
What constitutes “insulting” is not clear. It has resulted in a string of controversial arrests.
They include a 16-year-old boy being held for peacefully holding a placard reading “Scientology is a dangerous cult”, and gay rights campaigners from the group Outrage! detained when they protested against Islamic fundamentalist group Hizb ut-Tahrir over its stance on gays, Jews and women.
Mr Atkinson said he hoped the repeal of Section 5 would pave the way for a move to “rewind the culture of censoriousness” and take on the “outrage industry – self-appointed arbiters of the public good encouraging outrage to which the police feel under terrible pressure to react”.
Speaking at the Westminster launch of the campaign, he added: “The law should not be aiding and abetting the new intolerance.”
He was joined by Lord Dear, former chief constable of West Midlands Police, and former shadow home secretary David Davis.
Mr Davis said: “The simple truth is that in a free society, there is no right not to be offended. For centuries, freedom of speech has been a vital part of British life, and repealing this law will reinstate that right.”
The campaign has united an unlikely coalition of support including The Christian Institute and The National Secular Society as well as Big Brother Watch, The Freedom Association and The Peter Tatchell Foundation.
Frogmarch to ruin: ‘I’ve lost home and partner and could go broke, says boss who humiliated thief
A Businessman who marched a thieving employee to a police station with a sign around his neck says his actions have left him on the verge of bankruptcy and cost him his relationship and home.
Simon Cremer, 48, frogmarched Mark Gilbert through a town centre after he discovered the sub-contractor had written an £845 company cheque to himself.
Mr Cremer was later arrested for false imprisonment – which carries a maximum life sentence – although the case was dropped.
But his ‘victim’ received only a police caution and went on to launch a civil case against him. Mr Cremer agreed to pay £5,000 in an out-of-court settlement but has been told he has to pay £40,000 solicitors’ fees on top.
The stress of the case led to the collapse of his relationship with long-term partner Karen Boardman, 48, who was recovering from a double mastectomy after developing breast cancer.
The couple sold their home at Little Maplestead, near Halstead in Essex but Miss Boardman, who put up most of the money for the three-bedroom house, was left with negative equity. Mr Cremer said he is now paying her £400 a month to make up the shortfall.
‘I am disgusted at the whole thing. The legal system is wrong,’ flooring company boss Mr Cremer told the Mail yesterday.
‘I don’t think Mr Gilbert should have had the right to sue me. I was the one who was wronged in the first place but it is me who is suffering.
‘Yes, I took him to the police station, I hold my hands up to that. But it has cost me everything.’
Mr Cremer provoked a wave of public support for his actions when he subjected Gilbert to the 350 yard walk of shame through Witham, Essex, in September 2008. Around his neck on a piece of cardboard was the message: ‘THIEF. I stole £845. Am on my way to police station.’
But the decision to make an example of him backfired when he and three colleagues found they were facing a range of charges including false imprisonment. The criminal charges were eventually dropped but Gilbert – who claimed he was only taking wages he was owed – lodged a case for £40,000 damages, saying the embarrassment of being paraded had left him too traumatised to work for two years.
He also claimed he had feared for his life after he was allegedly tied up and bundled into a van before walking the last stretch of the journey to the police station. Mr Cremer, who has two grown-up daughters from a previous relationship, agreed to pay £5,000 compensation but was horrified by the £35,000 legal bill that came with it.
‘A barrister heard about my case and worked on my behalf for free. He got £9,000 taken off the bill in 2009,’ he said. ‘I still couldn’t afford to pay that because business has been tight. Now, after a lot of wrangling, the bill has gone back up to £40,000 because they are charging interest.
‘I had no option but to agree to this last week. They wanted a £10,000 lump sum and £1,000 a month but finally agreed to £5,000 and £500 per month.
‘It will probably bankrupt me, to be honest. What happened didn’t affect my business – every single customer supported me.
‘But the recession hit them and that hit my business. I used to turn over £300-400,000 a year but last year that was down to around £75,000 and my profit is normally 25 per cent of that net.
‘On top of that, my relationship with Karen broke down in May last year. It was getting too tough for her. ‘She was left with negative equity after the house was sold for about £300,000, so I am helping her out.’
Miss Boardman lived in a rented house after selling her home and has now moved in with a new partner.
The GP’s receptionist said: ‘Simon overstepped the mark but he didn’t deserve to lose everything. It’s wrong that a criminal has been able to claim compensation.’
Witham Tory MP Priti Patel said: ‘This case has clearly had a devastating impact upon Mr Cremer and that is just dreadful. Common sense should have prevailed in the way it was handled in terms of the criminal process and civil complaint.’
Gilbert, 43, who moved from Colchester to Bristol, after receiving the caution, was unavailable to comment yesterday.
Leftist hatred of selective schools still seething among British academics
The BBC has been criticised by Oxbridge academics for painting too rosy a picture of grammar schools. In a formal complaint to the corporation, a group of 16 historians and educationalists accused it of using “manipulative rhetoric” on the subject.
With selective education a contentious political topic, the corporation has a “statutory obligation” to present it in an unbiased light, they argued.
The academics singled out a two-part BBC programme about grammar schools that aired in January, claiming it used “emotive and value-laden language …accompanied by romantic piano music” to provoke a positive response among viewers.
The programme, called The Grammar School: A Secret History, broadcast on BBC Four, was said to be “largely uncritical, factually careless and reliant upon unrepresentative personal testimony”.
Prof Richard Pring, an Oxford University research fellow who led the Nuffield Review of 14-19 education and training in 2009, was among those who complained about the documentary.
He accused it of ignoring research evidence that did not support the practice of dividing children at the age of 11.
“It gave a cosy picture of that division at a time when we have a government who wants to return to these ways, so we need to have balance in their broadcasts,” he told the Times Educational Supplement.
“If there’s going to be a reinvention of education, all possible arguments, views and recollections [must] get an airing and not just one kind. It’s these views that are shaping public opinion.”
The academics attacked other programmes too, accusing the broadcaster of displaying a general bias towards grammar schools across its channels.
The achievements of the comprehensive school system should be given a “fair crack of the whip”, they argued.
The grammar schools documentary was given three and a half stars out of five in a Daily Telegraph review that praised it for cutting through “much of the romanticised poppycock that is spoken about grammar schools as part of the never-ending education debate”.
In a response to the initial complaint from the academics, Nick Shearman, the BBC’s knowledge commissioning executive, defended the documentary as “an insightful and even-handed history of the grammar school”.
But the group made a further complaint to the BBC’s Editorial Complaints Unit, a response from which they say is 15 weeks overdue.
A BBC spokesman said: “We have written to the complainant directly to apologise for the delay.
“This matter is being dealt with, as a priority, by the BBC Editorial Complaints Unit, who will respond directly within the next seven days.”
Other academics to sign the letter of complaint included Prof Anne Edwards, the director of Oxford University’s department of education, and Diane Reay, professor of education at Cambridge University.
Boris Johnson, the London Mayor, last week added his voice to the education debate, backing a return to academic selection in state school entry.