A revealing experiment

Money talks in the NHS — exactly what the NHS was set up to avoid

A controversial scheme to give hospitals a bonus if fewer patients die has led to nearly 900 lives being saved over 18 months.

Twenty four NHS hospitals in the north west took part in the Advancing Quality programme where they are given cash incentives to cut mortality rates for conditions like heart attacks. A total of £4.8 million over 18 months was available to share between those hospitals who showed the most improvement in their death rates.

Figures from the 18-month trial show 890 fewer patients died from conditions including pneumonia and hip replacements, than in the same period before the trial. This is a ‘significant’ difference in mortality rates said a study jointly conducted by the universities of Manchester, Nottingham, Birmingham and Cambridge.

The scheme, which is used across many US hospitals, is seen as controversial by those who feel hospitals should not be rewarded for saving lives as they should do this anyway.

But those administering the programmes say that the bonus acts as an incentive for doctors and other healthcare workers to examine more carefully their methods and practices. The extra money goes straight back into healthcare so the hospital itself benefits rather than individual administrators or bosses, for instance.

Matt Sutton, professor of health economics at Manchester said the results contradict previous research, particularly in America where the scheme is already established.

He said: ‘While research has shown the US scheme had no effect on patient health, the same scheme in the NHS did and resulted in 890 lives being saved during over 18 months.’

Reasons for this may be that the potential bonuses are larger in the UK, it encouraged staff to meet more regularly to share and solve problems but also it sparked competitiveness.

In the US, the schemes are local and only five per cent of hospitals take part. In the UK trial, 24 hospitals in the north-west took part to get a bigger share of the bonus pot, which made them compete against each other.

Since the end of the trial, the scheme has continued and extended to a total of 32 hospital trusts in the region.

The mortality rates for conditions covered by the scheme fell by six per cent year on year, said the research, published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

The universities studied death rates for those who died in the hospital (not after being sent home) from pneumonia, heart failure and heart attack.

The scheme also takes into account deaths from heart bypass surgery and hip and knee replacement surgery and has since been extended to cover strokes and dementia.

It varies from another NHS scheme which extends across all hospitals in Britain where money is withheld for high mortality rates rather than awarded for improving rates.

Another researcher, Professor Ruth McDonald of Nottingham University, added: ‘Pay-for-performance schemes are being widely adopted, yet until now there’s been little evidence that they improve patient outcomes. ‘Our findings suggest they can make a positive and significant difference but that, whether they do so, depends very much on how they’re designed and implemented.’


Child dies after massive drugs blunder at under-fire NHS hospital — coverup in place

A child has died after a massive drugs blunder at an under-fire NHS hospital. Mystery surrounds the tragic death at the children’s ward of Basildon Hospital, Essex, which happened sometime over the past month.

Sources close to the hospital have revealed the untimely death is believed to have occurred when staff dispensed incorrect or out of date medication.

A media blackout amongst staff at the hospital has meant details of the incident have remained tightly guarded.

Health inspectors visited the hospital on Saturday and whilst investigating discovered another non-fatal drugs blunder by staff on the same ward. A full investigation into both incidents by the Care Quality Commission is due to conclude in the coming weeks.

This is not the first time Basildon Hospital has hit the headlines due to failings in patient care. Earlier this week the hospital was threatened with massive fines if it continues to miss key performance targets including assessing all accident and emergency patients within 60 minutes.

In July, the same hospital was slammed following the death of a child from blood poisoning at the hospital’s new state-of-the-art children’s A&E department, which opened in March. The child, whose age and sex were never released, waited for 55 minutes to be seen despite self-imposed targets stating all children should be assessed within 15 minutes. The youngster was eventually transferred to Great Ormond Street but sadly died soon after.

Today the Care Quality Commission, said: ‘The CQC carried out an inspection at the trust on Saturday, 3 November 2012. ‘A report of our inspectors’ full findings will be published in due course. ‘We are also liaising with our partner agencies with regard to the trust and will take any appropriate action where this is deemed necessary.’

The hospital released a brief statement today. A spokesperson said: ‘Basildon and Thurrock University Hospital NHS Trust is committed to providing all its patients with an excellent level of care in a safe environment.

‘Following two recent incidents at Basildon Hospital, where the care we delivered to children did not meet this standard, we are working with the Care Quality Commission to strengthen our paediatric services.’


The young British children who do worse educationally also do worse physically

The “explanation” offered for the findings is hardly an explanation at all. The findings are however well explained by IQ being one aspect of general biological fitness

Tens of thousands of children are being held back at school because their sedentary lifestyles have left them lacking basic physical skills. A study of four and five-year-olds shows nearly a third struggle with tasks such as balancing on one leg and crawling.

Researchers say children increasingly spend their early years sitting in front of screens and being ferried around in prams and car seats, with fewer opportunities to roll, climb, crawl and enjoy rough-and-tumble play.

The study found those who struggle with basic physical exercises are significantly more likely to fall behind academically.

Sixty children in reception classes at a school in the West Midlands were given 14 short tests, including asking them to balance on one leg for three seconds and crawl a short distance.

The study found 30 per cent of pupils showed signs of physical immaturity and a further 42 per cent some signs of delays in development.

Some children even appeared not to have lost primitive baby reflexes, such as their arms and head extending when their head moves to the side.

The study, carried out by former primary headmaster Pete Griffin in conjunction with the Institute for Neuro-Physiological Psychology in Chester, found that of pupils in the bottom half of the group for physical maturity, 77 per cent were in the lowest two groups for academic ability.

Mr Griffin said: ‘The main issue is that children don’t have the same kind of physical challenge and upbringing they might have had 40 or 50 years ago.’ ‘Children are strapped into travel systems and are not physically picked up as much. ‘I don’t see family members throwing their babies up into the air as much. We do less of that.’

Babies also spend less time on the floor learning to roll and crawl, he said. ‘There’s less opportunity to climb, to roll, to jump.’ In these safety-conscious times, parents will stop their children walking along a wall in case they fall, he added.

The rise of screen-based entertainment was likely to be having a ‘dramatic effect’, both because it led to sedentary lifestyles and stunted concentration. ‘There’s less creativity involved in playing on the screen or watching TV,’ he said.

‘TV comes in very small bites so children are not used to concentrating for long periods, video games move from one stimulus to another very rapidly.’

This was likely to have an effect on children’s ability to concentrate in the classroom, he warned.

Mr Griffin added that the pressures of today’s exam-focused schooling meant that children with immature physical skills were less likely to catch up. ‘There is less of a place for a late developer in the education system,’ he said.


Is it still worth going to university? Earning power of a degree in Britain falls 22% in a decade

The higher salary that graduates traditionally gain from having a university degree has been slashed by a fifth during the past decade.

A study has found that the rise in numbers attending university and increased competition for jobs has drastically driven down the earning power enjoyed by previous generations of graduates.

Researchers from Warwick University followed 17,000 students from 2006 to their graduation into one of the worst recessions in history, and compared it to graduates who finished their studies in 1999.

The recent graduates are, on average, earning 22 per cent less than those who started at university a decade earlier.

They are also struggling to find jobs that justify the debts they have built up in getting their degrees, with four in ten failing to get work that requires their qualifications, while one in ten have spent at least six months on the dole.

The researchers concluded that a degree continues to deliver a ‘significant earnings advantage’, although the size of it varies widely according to the subject studied.

Medicine and law graduates suffer the least, losing about 16 per cent and 9 per cent respectively, while arts graduates saw the sharpest slump in earning power, losing 32.9 per cent.

Students who began their studies in 2006 were the first to pay tuition fees of £3,000-a-year and emerged from university owing a record amount. Almost half reported debts of £20,000 or more. Despite this, the researchers found that 96 per cent of graduates would do a degree again if they had the chance.

They also concluded that a degree continues to deliver a ‘significant earnings advantage’, although the size of it varies widely according to the subject studied.

While medicine and dentistry graduates were earning on average £32,447, those who studied the creative arts and design were bringing in just £18,514.

While the average decline in earnings since 2003 was estimated at 21.9 per cent – about two per cent a year – the slump for arts graduates was 32.9 per cent.

For medicine and related subjects, it was 16 per cent. Law held up particularly well, with graduates in this subject seeing an earnings decline of just nine per cent.

With a further hike in tuition fees to a maximum of £9,000-a-year, the study concludes that the boom in the numbers going to university seen in recent decades is over. It claims the number of graduates will now plateau at 250,000 per year.

The ‘Futuretrack’ research, conducted by Warwick University with funding from the Higher Education Careers Services Unit, followed 17,000 students from the time they applied for courses in 2006 to their graduation into one of the worst recessions in history and experiences on the job market.

The researchers had previously carried out research among graduates who finished their studies in 1999. ‘Compared with the experiences of graduates some ten years earlier, Futuretrack graduates faced a tough labour market,’ the report said.

‘The greater number of graduates seeking employment, coupled with harsh economic conditions, have combined to create higher levels of graduate unemployment, a higher proportion of graduates in non-graduate employment and a lower rate of progression for graduates than was the situation ten years earlier.’

The Government has claimed that a degree can add more than £200,000 to a male graduate’s salary over a lifetime compared with those who decided against university. But the research found the claim ‘does not reflect the evidence revealed here’.

It said the ‘relative earnings advantage associated with a degree appears to have been declining slowly over the past decade, possibly by as much as two per cent per annum relative to average earnings in the economy’.

The report went on to warn that the decline in the earnings premium was not simply due to the recession, and was unlikely to bounce back up as the economy improves.

In further findings, students who got involved in teams, societies and clubs at university were more likely to have landed good jobs. The researchers found that employers are increasingly looking at extra-curricular activities when seeking to differentiate between a field brandishing mainly 2.1s.

Graduates with first-class degrees and those who attended high-ranking universities were also better off.

One of the most ‘disturbing’ findings, the researchers, said was that the pay gap between men and women was showing no sign of narrowing. Men earn about £2,000 more per year on average.


Green Madness: Britain’s Unilateral Carbon Targets May Cost £330 Billion By 2030

Britain will need to invest 330 billion pounds in its energy sector, excluding networks, by 2030 and return its economy to growth to meet carbon emissions reduction targets, the London School of Economics said in a report on Thursday.

Britain aims to cut carbon emissions by 34 percent below 1990 levels by 2020 and by 80 percent by 2050, but does not have a binding target for 2030.

The investments are needed to build new power plants, retrofit existing ones with carbon-reduction technology and to limit energy demand.

“The key question will be how do we attract pension funds, which are one source of capital, and generally the financial sector, being banks and insurance companies, to join the market?” said Volker Beckers, chief executive of RWE npower, which commissioned the report.

He said only around 30-40 percent of the investment can be covered by balance sheets and project finance of British energy companies, leaving the lion’s share of money needed to other investors.

Experts have forecast Britain’s energy investments at 200 billion pounds until 2020.

A separate report showed on Wednesday that Britain’s power grid alone needs a yearly investment of 1.6 billion pounds to connect renewable energy.

If Britain wants to reach its long-term climate change targets, it also needs to return to stable economic growth and the eurozone debt crisis has to be resolved, the LSE said.

This scenario is one of three pathways the report outlines, setting out the most optimistic option for Britain’s energy system, but also the most expensive one.

“It involves a financial services sector in good health, that has not only recovered sufficiently to channel higher levels of inward investment and to attract international investment in the UK,” the LSE said in its report.

The school estimates that by 2030 around 67 gigawatts (GW) of power plants in Britain will be a mixture of gas plants fitted with carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology (10 GW), traditional fossil fuel plants (40.5 GW) and nuclear power stations (16.5 GW).

This will be paired with around 50 GW of renewable energy capacity, such as wind and solar farms.

The two alternative scenarios paint a more gloomy outlook for economic growth, with a gas-focused option predicting return to economic growth from the early 2020s and an austerity scenario forecasting anaemic growth until 2030.

Under neither of these circumstances would Britain meet its carbon reduction targets and investments coming forward would be tighter at 180 billion and 130 billion, respectively.


High Street left without Christmas lights for first time in 20 years after killjoy officials demand £4,000 for lamppost health and safety tests

Officials have banned Christmas lights from a busy High Street for the first time in 20 years unless traders fork out up to £4,000 to have lampposts tested for health and safety reasons.

Furious residents and local business owners have slammed a new rule which means the West Wickham Town Centre Association must pay for test certificates to ensure lampposts are strong enough to support Christmas lights.

The charge was introduced after the High Street was designated a red route, meaning it is managed by Transport for London (TfL) rather than Bromley Council. As one of London’s major roads, the High Street carries up to 30 per cent of city traffic.

Secretary of the association Jane Avis manages the family-run shop Waterways, in the High Street, which has been running for more 30 years. She said: ‘We’ve had Christmas lights for over 20 years. My mum used to do it and then I took it over. ‘It doesn’t make a massive difference to trade, it just gives a good community feeling.

‘West Wickham High Street has been a red route for four or five years and they never asked for anything. ‘But last year they said we need to comply with regulations which are different to Bromley Council’s. ‘We’re going to fight them all the way. We won’t let them dampen our Christmas spirits.’

Resident Charles Sebestyen, a 70-year-old retired property executive who has lived in the area for around 35 years, said: ‘It has killed the Christmas spirit in the West Wickham area. ‘TfL is being ridiculous. I simply do not understand how something that has worked for a long time is now suddenly unsafe.’

Robert Oxley, campaign manager of the TaxPayers’ Alliance said: ‘With money tight councils don’t have a fortune to spend on Christmas lights. ‘Bureaucrats shouldn’t be making it more expensive to decorate town centres with some Christmas cheer. ‘If traders and residents are willing to invest in their community’s festive celebrations then authorities should support that, not get in the way with needless red tape and bureaucracy.’

TfL director of roads Dana Skelley said: ‘Safety on our road network is the top priority and any additional attachments to a lighting column on our road network have to be fully considered to ensure their weight or size does not have the potential to put the public at risk.

‘That is why we have a clear licensing procedure in place to help ensure any applications for decorations can be assessed appropriately. ‘Hundreds of these licences are issued for festive decorations across London every year however we are meeting with local traders tomorrow to discuss the matter, with a look to finding a workable solution.’

Councillor for renewal and recreation Peter Morgan said: ‘The traders have worked extremely hard to gather funds together to decorate their High Street and we have supported them in this.

‘We are now pressing TfL, who are responsible for this road as a red route, to see if anything can be done to rectify this situation in time for Christmas.’

A Transport for London spokesman said £4,000 was the maximum charge for the tests, which would cover a £75 admin fee plus any additional charges required to restrict traffic along the road to install or remove the decorations. [Very generous of them!]


BBC bosses told Professor he couldn’t listen to newly discovered planet ‘in case aliens swore on live TV’

Control freaks

Professor Cox said BBC bosses told him he could not attempt to listen to a newly discovered planet

The quest to discover life on other planets knows no boundaries. Apart from BBC health and safety guidelines, that is.

Professor Brian Cox has told how corporation bosses blocked his plans to try to make contact with a newly discovered planet – just in case some aliens happened to answer back.

The physicist and TV host claimed they were worried the experiment, to be staged live on air during his hit BBC2 show Stargazing Live, might pick up a signal from ‘an alien civilisation’ – which is apparently a breach of corporation guidelines.

He had hoped to point a radio telescope at Threapleton Holmes B, the planet discovered by amateur stargazers during a project publicised on his show. The telescope, based at Manchester University’s Jodrell Bank Observatory, picks up radio emission from planets.

But the experiment never went ahead for fear it would breach health and safety regulations, Prof Cox claimed yesterday in a radio interview on BBC6 Music.

‘We decided that we’d point the Jodrell Bank telescope at the planet that had been discovered by these two viewers and listen because no one had ever pointed a radio telescope at it and you never know,’ he recalled.

‘The BBC actually said, “But you can’t do that because we need to go through the regulations and health and safety and everything in case we discover a signal from an alien civilisation”.

‘(I said), “You mean we would discover the first hint that there is other intelligent life in the universe beyond Earth, live on air, and you’re worried about the health and safety of it?” It was incredible. They did have guidelines. Compliance.’

BBC6’s breakfast show host Shaun Keaveny was incredulous at his guest’s claim. ‘The idea that intelligent life could be discovered and it might swear and that’s why we wouldn’t broadcast it – it’s such a brilliant BBC thing, isn’t it?’ he said.

Prof Cox also said he had a second bizarre encounter with BBC bosses during the show when he suggested asking volunteers to scour pictures of Mars for signs of geological activity that computer scrutiny might have missed. ‘Someone from the BBC said to me, “Would there have to be a prize if someone discovered it?”

‘(I said), “What do you mean? You’re going to say to someone, you discovered the first evidence for alien life beyond Earth – and here’s a book voucher as well? ‘“You think that’s going to make it better? You’re going to go down in history with a Nobel prize – book tokens or Nectar points?”’

A BBC spokesman said: ‘In making the series there were many light-hearted conversations, one of which was about how different organisations might react to the discovery of alien life.’

Stargazing Live, which explores astronomy and the night sky, saw record ratings this year, peaking at 3.8million. Threapleton Holmes B was discovered during the show in January by amateur scientists Chris Holmes and Lee Threapleton.

In what is believed to be only the third time British amateurs have found a new planet, they made their discovery by spotting changes in light patterns in an image from Nasa’s Kepler space telescope.


Must not object to loud grunting on a sportsfield?

The boss of the UK’s biggest taxi firm apologised today for comparing a deaf footballer who ‘grunts’ during matches to female tennis players.

Millionaire Addison Lee chairman and leading Tory donor John Griffin appeared to crack the joke at the expense of Potters Bar’s deaf footballer Daniel Ailey.

The non-league striker was abused by Grays Athletic fans in a midweek match last month for the way he communicates with his team-mates.

Police were called when some of the fans started making loud grunting noises mocking the way he gets the attention of his fellow players.

The 69-year-old mini cab boss involved in the row by sending an e-mail from his Addison Lee account to his local paper comparing the noises made by Ailey to those of female tennis stars, such as Maria Sharapova.

His comments were made public sparking anger from charities, and today he issued an apology for causing any offence.



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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