Revealed: 3 in 4 of Britain’s danger doctors are trained abroad
Good to see that this is now in the open. Also of great interest would be to see how many are Muslims. Judging by the names, a great lot of them
The vast majority of doctors who have been struck off in the past five years were trained abroad, new figures from the General Medical Council show.
The full extent of the danger presented by foreign doctors working in the health service can be revealed.
New figures from the General Medical Council (GMC) show that the vast majority of doctors who have been struck off were trained abroad.
The revelations will add to concerns that NHS patients are not adequately protected from health professionals from countries where training is less rigorous than in the UK, and from those who are unfamiliar with basic medical practices in this country.
The figures, disclosed for the first time and obtained by The Sunday Telegraph using freedom of information laws, show:
* Three quarters of doctors struck off the medical register this year were trained abroad.
* Doctors trained overseas are five times more likely to be struck off than those trained in the UK.
* The country with the biggest single number of doctors who have been removed or suspended from the medical register, is India, followed by Nigeria and Egypt.
In total, 669 doctors have been either struck off or suspended by the GMC over the last five years.
Of those, only 249 were British (37 per cent) while 420 (63 per cent) were trained abroad – whereas one-third of doctors on the register were trained abroad, and two-thirds in Britain.
In recent years, a series of cases have raised concerns about the competence and language skills of overseas doctors.
In 2008, the pensioner David Gray was killed by a German-trained doctor, Daniel Ubani, who gave him ten times the recommended dose of pain relief while working as a locum.
Dr Ubani, who was born in Nigeria, was working his first shift in this country and later said he had never heard of the medication diamorphine, which is not commonly used by GPs in Germany, before he administered it.
A series of other cases at the GMC have included Vladan Visnjevac, struck off after a baby girl he was delivering died of a fractured skull and brain injuries when he used forceps wrongly, and Navin Shankar, who failed to diagnose a young woman’s cancer over six years before her death.
Julia Manning, chief executive of centre-right think tank 2020 Health said: “These figures are really worrying and shocking. I think we need to take a really hard look at the assessment of all doctors coming into this country.”
Mrs Manning said she was concerned that the European Working Time Directive, which restricts doctors’ hours, had left hospitals relying too heavily on locum staff, including those who were not familiar with British medical practices or the routines of the NHS.
“If I was a hospital chief executive looking at these figures I would be going to work tomorrow to check just how rigorously have we assessed our own doctors,” she said.
Under the current system, British hospitals and medical agencies which hire doctors are not allowed to test the language skills of those from EU countries to seek if staff will be able to communicate safely.
Until now, Britain has interpreted EU law as meaning that doctors who qualify in any of the 27 countries must be free to work elsewhere, without restriction.
The coalition has promised to change the law, so that doctors will have to prove they can speak English before they get work here, but the changes are bogged down in discussions in Brussels.
Many of the problems with locum medics arose after Labour’s 2006 GP contract meant that family doctors were able to give up responsibility for out-of-hours care, with private agencies taking over.
In recent years, locums have been increasingly used to plug gaps in care, because of shortages of doctors thanks to Britain’s strict adherence to the European Working Time Directive, which limits their hours.
Since a 48-hour maximum week came in two years ago, the number of doctors who trained elsewhere in Europe but are registered to work in the UK has risen by 13 per cent.
Those who come here from beyond Europe are subject to a language test, and a multiple choice exam, which can be taken repeatedly until it passed, before a practical assessment is made.
The new figures from the GMC give the first detailed picture of the problem facing medical regulators.
Last night, there were calls for extra safeguards and training to ensure that any doctor working in this country is familiar with the drugs and procedures used in this country.
The newly disclosed figures also suggest that the picture is worsening.
Of the 39 doctors struck off by the General Medical Council this year, 29 were trained outside the UK – 75 per cent of the total – whereas in 2009, 41 of a total of 67 doctors struck off came from overseas, 61 per cent of the total.
The figures show that India has the highest number of doctors who have been suspended or struck off the register with 123. Nigeria and Egypt also fare badly, each with 33 doctors subject to the measures since 2008. Eastern European countries account for 27 such cases.
When the numbers of doctors disciplined is compared with the total number working here from each country, the highest proportion of those who have been struck off or suspended come from Cameroon.
Since 2008, there has been average of 18 Cameroonian doctors working here at any one time.
Of those, one has been suspended, and one struck off. Mexico, Cuba, France and Uganda were the countries with the next highest proportion of doctors subject to the disciplinary measures.
The country with the best record is Hong Kong. Despite having an average of 773 doctors working in the UK since 2008, none have been struck off or disciplined by the GMC.
Similarly, New Zealand has had an average of 600 doctors working in Britain, but none have had those measures taken against them. Next best were Iran, Slovakia and the United States.
There are around 253,000 doctors on the medical register. Around 92,000 were trained abroad, an increase of around 2,000 over the past year.
Of those, more than 25,000 were trained in Europe and around 67,000 were trained in other countries.
Doctors from outside Europe have to take a test before they can work in the UK, but the GMC can refuse entry to those from medical schools which do not meet its official standards or those agreed internationally.
There have been long-standing concerns about the difficulties of monitoring the standards of training in distant overseas countries.
In 2010, graduates from seven medical schools from Nigeria were banned from seeking work in the UK, because of alarm over falling standards of training.
Corruption in medicine remains common in India, most often in the form of bribes to gain access to treatment.
In 2010, the president of the Medical Council of India was accused of accepting bribes to certify medical colleges which did not meet basic standards.
The investigation was closed earlier this year, after insufficient evidence was found to support the claims.
Last month, the same council barred 27 doctors from their register for their part in setting up fraudulent medical courses.
Some doctors claimed they were running two medical colleges simultaneously, while other courses claimed to have far more consultants to train students than they actually did.
Niall Dickson, chief executive of the GMC, said the health service would not have survived without the contribution from overseas doctors, and that it was important not to demonise tens of thousands of professionals who had brought their skills to this country.
He said: “We absolutely acknowledge that when it comes to the serious end of the scale, those from overseas are more likely to appear, and we have set about a series of reforms to address this.”
The regulator is reviewing the tests set for doctors from outside the EU, having raised the language standard requirements, and is about to pilot a new induction programme so all doctors who are new to UK practice undergo extra training about how medicine operates in this country and the ethical and professional standards they are expected to meet.
From this month, all UK doctors will also have annual checks of their competence, under a new licensing system called revalidation.
Dr Umesh Prahbu, national vice-chairman of the British International Doctors Association, said he believed the reasons why overseas doctors are far more likely to be struck off were complex and varied.
He said: “The NHS is known for having problems with discrimination and racism and I think this is part of it.”
Dr Prahbu said that patients were no more likely to lodge complaints about doctors trained overseas than they were about those from the UK, yet when it came to referrals from NHS trusts, foreign doctors were far more likely to be referred to the GMC.
Analysis of the 2008 to 2012 figures shows that among cases of those struck off, 17 per cent of those involving UK-trained doctors began with a complaint from a patient, compared with 11 per cent in the case of those from abroad.
Dr Prahbu, medical director of Wrightington, Wigan and Leigh NHS foundation trust, said other problems stemmed from cultural differences and communication problems, more than from differences in clinical training.
Dr Prahbu, who trained in India, said the technical training was very similar to that in the UK, but it was more difficult to learn about the “softer” skills and ensure that patients felt treated with courtesy.
A Department of Health spokesman said the checks being introduced would “ensure that the small number of dangerous, often overseas trained, locum doctors who do not understand the British medical system are stopped from treating patients.”
Shock 37% rise in ‘blue light’ ambulances that take more than 30 minutes to reach casualty
Thousands of the most seriously ill emergency patients are being forced to travel further to hospital in ambulances following a swathe of A&E closures and downgrades.
Figures obtained by The Mail on Sunday show that the number of patients with life-threatening conditions taking longer than 30 minutes to reach A&E has rocketed by an average of 37 per cent in two years.
Most of these people will be transported by ‘blue light’ ambulance – so the extra journey time means they are being transported further than ever to access emergency care.
Figures from ambulance trusts across England show a rise of up to 63 per cent in just two years in the number of priority Category A patients spending 30 minutes or more on the road after being collected by paramedics.
Such patients are so ill that trusts have a legal requirement to get paramedics to 95 per cent of cases within eight minutes. But there is no upper limit on the time it takes to get them to hospital.
The shocking rise in journey times has been attributed to the closure and downgrading of A&E departments, with some operating limited opening hours.
But it also shows the effect of the Government’s policy to introduce major trauma networks, which means some of the most seriously ill patients go to specialist centres rather than the closest local casualty department.
While paramedics are highly trained and can perform life-saving techniques, the disclosure still raises fears that patients are being put at risk by such policies.
Hope Daley, of trade union Unison, which represents ambulance workers, said: ‘Alarm bells should be ringing in the Government and the Department of Health about this shocking rise in the time it takes seriously ill people to get to hospital.
‘Patients need fast, efficient treatment without having to wait in pain. The financial straitjacket on the NHS is leading to A&E units up and down the country closing or reducing their hours to daytime only. The Government must see that its policies are damaging the ability of the NHS to care properly for patients.’
A Mail on Sunday investigation uncovered 33 hospital emergency departments which have either already been closed or downgraded, or are under threat of closure.
Senior NHS executive Mike Farrar this week warned that the public must accept the closures if the health service is to survive and called on politicians to back the changes. But many MPs are preparing to join campaigns and protest marches in their constituencies against the unpopular moves.
Doctors are still largely divided on the issue. While some claim the changes will improve patient care and mortality rates, others insist it puts patients at risk and dismantles the NHS.
Shadow Health Minister Andrew Gwynne said: ‘David Cameron promised to put doctors in control, but he has allowed A&E closures to be driven through even where they don’t have clinical support. Ministers must take urgent action to ensure patients don’t pay the price for his broken promises on the NHS.’
This newspaper revealed in September that Category A patients in Newark, Nottinghamshire – where the A&E department closed last year – took an average of 90 minutes to reach an alternative casualty department after the initial 999 call. The latest figures, obtained after a Freedom of Information request, illustrate the national picture for the first time, covering eight out of 11 ambulance trusts in England.
In the area covered by South Central Ambulance Service, the number of Category A patients taking longer than 30 minutes to reach A&E increased by 63 per cent between 2009-10 and 2011-12 – representing an additional 2,000 patients waiting longer before being seen in hospital.
The exceptions to the national picture were in the East of England, where there was a rise of less than one per cent, and in London, where the number of journeys taking longer than half an hour fell by around a third.
Roger Goss, of campaign group Patient Concern, said: ‘We’re getting close to crunch time when we find out who was right – the medics who tell people they are more likely to survive if they travel to a specialist unit, or those who said patients would be arriving at A&E in a box.’
Why don’t more girls study physics in Britain?
“The Guardian” has a bit of a whine below but is of course careful not to mention the elephant in the room: The repeatedly demonstrated differences in patterns of ability between males and females. If you can’t argue with the facts, at least you can ignore them, apparently. Being so intellectually impoverished that you can’t even broach the subject is rather sad, however
For the past two decades, female students have accounted for only one-fifth of those taking the subject at A-level. It is the fourth most popular subject for boys, yet slips to 19th in the rankings for girls. According to a recent study by the Institute of Physics, using information provided by the National Pupil Database, 49% of state co-educational schools in England did not send any girls to study physics at A-level in 2011. By contrast, girls were almost two and a half times more likely to take the subject at A-level if they were at a single-sex school – a finding that suggests there might be an ingrained cultural perception in co-educational establishments that physics is somehow “not for girls”.
The numbers continue to slip at university. Around 17% of girls apply to do physics at undergraduate level, followed by a more substantial decline in the numbers moving into permanent academic jobs – only 7.9% of these undergraduates stay on to become senior lecturers and 4% professors. Why is this happening? Is there some endemic sexism within the world of physics? Or do women simply not find it appealing?
Athene Donald, a professor of experimental physics and gender equality champion at the University of Cambridge, says there is a risk that the subject is not seen as “cool” by girls of school age. “It might be that the problem is embedded in the ethos of the school and that teachers are tending to interact more with boys who are more outgoing,” Donald says. “There are all sorts of subtle messages that ‘Girls don’t do physics’.”
A number of pupils I talk to at Lampton agree. They say that biology is perceived as more girl-friendly, because it is the gateway to medicine and involves more human interaction. By contrast, physics is seen to be an academically challenging subject, with students carrying out dull, repetitive experiments on a lab bench and struggling with equations. The anecdotal evidence is borne out by the statistics – whereas girls account for 20% of all students who opt for physics at A-level, they account for 55% of pupils who opt for biology.
“I suppose the way we portray physicists and engineers is as if it is not normal for girls to do these things,” says Donald. “They are often seen as quite nerdy men in programmes like The Big Bang Theory. They are posed as inarticulate and that’s not the kind of thing a girl is going to aspire to when she is 12, 13, 14.”
Or, as Sir Peter Knight, president of the Institute of Physics, put it: “The English teacher who looks askance at the girl who takes an interest in physics … can play a part in forming girls’ perception of the subject.”
Lampton is bucking the national trend, with a quarter of girls studying physics at A-level. Jessica Hamer, a science teacher at the school, attributes this to a concerted effort on their part to counteract any negative stereotypes about what physicists might do, or be like, in the real world: “We realised there was a dearth of girls, so we tried to get more speakers and role models to come into the school and talk to the pupils.”
The impact has been noticeable, and the girls I meet are extremely bright and enthusiastic about their chosen subject. “It’s very encouraging to know there are women out there who have actually succeeded,” says Sadaf Rezay, 16, who is taking physics A-level. “But there aren’t that many on TV or in the media,” counters Alice Williams. “Physics is not all just theory. A lot of people think it’s theory, theory, theory, and that puts them off. You need to see how it’s applied practically as well. It’s involved in everything we do: you pick up a book – that’s mechanics. You throw a ball – that’s mechanics … Nuclear fusion could be used potentially as alternative energy.”
The three of them chat on, at one point insisting that they’re looking forward to a school trip to the Large Hadron Collider at Cern in Geneva. When their conversation about particle physics becomes too baffling for me (single science GCSE, 1994), Alice breaks off to explain. “Particle physics is looking into what makes up protons and electrons,” she explains, kindly.
Did these forthright, clever girls feel peer pressure not to study physics, I wonder? Rezay nods. “I think in year 10 and 11, girls are put off because of peer pressure and none of their friends are doing it.”
“It’s not cool to be clever at the moment, especially as a girl,” adds Williams. “Boys don’t mind being thought of as geeks, but girls do. I do English lit as well, and I’m the only one in the class who also takes physics. Everyone in the class was kind of like, ‘You do physics?'” She curls her lip in disgust. “But we’re good because we’ve got a whole group of friends [doing physics as well].”
The importance of a supportive network of friends taking the same subject is key. But it is also, as Alice points out, a question of seeing more positive role models on television and in schools. Although there are prominent male presenters in popular science – Brian Cox, David Attenborough – there are hardly any female counterparts. And when female scientists do make it on to the pages of newspapers, or into television studios, the way they are presented can be extremely patronising. A 2010 paper by academics at the University of Cardiff examined 51 interviews with scientists, eight of whom were women, pulled from a sample of 12 UK national papers in 2006. Half of the profiles of the women referred to their clothing, physique or hairstyle, compared with 21% of the profiles of men. The male scientists interviewed were often used to signal gravitas, while women were more likely to be said to make science “accessible” or “sexy”.
Alice Bell, a science journalist and research fellow at the University of Sussex, sees this as part of the problem: “We should celebrate it when we see a female scientist on TV. We should say, ‘Yes, she was wonderful’, and not necessarily just look at their bottom.”
State school quotas for British universities face axe following protests
Controversial admissions rules intended to force leading universities to take more students from state schools are to be reviewed after protests.
Under rules introduced last year, universities wanting to charge higher tuition fees of up to £9,000 a year are expected to recruit more low-income students, with their attendance at state school being one of the major criteria.
Nick Clegg, the Deputy Prime Minister, suggested that tutors should be willing to offer places to students from state schools on the basis of lower
A-level grades than they would require from privately educated candidates. The reforms provoked protests from elite universities and leading independent schools. Head teachers accused the Government of pursuing a “Communist-style” agenda of social engineering, while about half of Britain’s leading universities boycotted the state school target this year.
Critics said it was not possible to make a “crude” judgment that the poorest pupils always attended state schools while the richest were privately educated.
With the economic downturn forcing an increasing number of middle-class parents to turn to top state schools, especially grammar schools, for their child’s education, filling university places from such schools would render the targets pointless, they say.
Ministers indicated that the targets could be scrapped in light of the furore. “It’s a fair criticism and we probably need to look at it,” said a senior government source.
The source insisted that it was right for universities to take account of a candidate’s background using “contextual data”. This could include whether they lived in a deprived area, or attended a poorly-performing school.
However, the idea of considering whether a candidate was state or privately educated should be reviewed, the source said.
The Government’s watchdog on university admissions, the Office for Fair Access to higher education, has already toned down the Coalition’s original language. In guidance issued this year, it said targets should be based on school type “or performance”.
Many universities and private schools have no objection to making allowances for students from weak schools who achieved good grades.
Their key complaint has been over the Government’s decision to make distinctions between the independent and state education systems.
Nadhim Zahawi, a Conservative member of the Commons skills select committee, said the state school target was “too crude”. “It is much more complicated than that. It would be right to review the target,” he said.
Chris Ramsey, co-chairman of the universities committee of the Headmasters’ and Headmistresses’ Conference, said he would welcome a review.
“These targets assume that everybody who goes to an independent school is of one social type and everybody who goes to a state school is of a different social type,” he said.
An Oxford University spokesman said it was “misleading” to treat all state school pupils as disadvantaged. “Our goal is to increase access for under-represented groups. We are not convinced that using school type is the best means to that end,” he said.
Proof of global cooling! Britain has wettest year on record
If a drought this year in parts of the USA proves global warming, then surely record floods in Britain prove global cooling!
Up to three inches of rain could fall today as 2012 goes out with a splash. This will be followed by further downpours tomorrow night, forecasters warn. With the ground already saturated, there is a high risk of further flooding.
Last night 78 flood warnings were in place and a further 192 flood alerts were issued. The Environment Agency has told those travelling over the weekend to take extra caution and plan ahead.
But the New Year finally promises some respite. It means most people should have clear skies for their New Year’s Eve fireworks, and from Tuesday onwards only occasional showers are forecast, with several dry days.
The Met Office has already confirmed 2012 as the wettest year in England since records began in 1910 – and the threatened storms are likely to confirm it as the wettest for all of Britain.
Less than two inches of rain is needed for the record to be broken, remarkable considering much of the country was in drought in March with huge swathes subjected to hosepipe bans.
And after heavy overnight rain, there will be further blustery downpours this morning.
Experts warn that the North West can expect up to three inches of rain, while other areas can expect up to an inch.
In the past 10 days, 520 properties have flooded across the country. High ground water levels have meant that even places such as Common Moor, near Liskeard – one of Cornwall’s highest communities above sea level – have been put at risk.
Flood defences have so far protected more than 21,000 properties across England and Wales, including 4,000 properties in Cornwall, while the Environment Agency’s Floodline has received 28,000 calls.
Met Office forecaster Dave Britton said: ‘Heavier rain will return on Sunday evening, with a new band of wet weather from the west. New Year’s Eve will see further outbreaks of rain, but after a sodden day, the early forecasts are for the rain to clear in the evening.
Britain to miss key immigration target, says report
David Cameron is likely to miss his key pledge of reducing the number of people coming into Britain to fewer than 100,000 a year, according to a new study.
A leading think tank predicts that “net” migration will continue its downward trend in 2013 but will start rising again in the following year.
The report, from the Left-of-centre Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR), is a blow for the Prime Minister, who pledged in 2011 to get net migration – the difference between the number of people entering Britain and those leaving – down to the “tens of thousands” before the general election in May 2015.
Theresa May, the Home Secretary, has introduced new restrictions, including a clampdown on student visas and curbs on the numbers allowed in from outside the European Union to work and to join family members.
The efforts received an apparent boost when figures last month from the Office for National Statistics showed that net migration fell to 183,000 in the 12 months to March 2012, down from 242,000 the previous year.
In the biggest drop for four years, the number of foreign students coming to Britain fell by eight per cent, the number of new foreign workers was down by nine per cent, and the number of migrants from outside the EU fell by seven per cent.
However, the IPPR annual report on migration warns that the downward trend is likely to continue only into next year, with net migration falling to 140,000.
It predicts that the total will then start rising as ministers run out of options to cut numbers further. It forecasts that the Government will miss Mr Cameron’s key target, but points out that final totals for the 12 months up to February 2015 will not be available until after the general election.
In 2014, a new wave of Eastern European citizens will gain the right to live and work unrestricted in Britain under the EU’s “freedom of movement” rules. Bulgarians and Romanians – with a total population of 29 million – have had restricted rights to come to Britain since they joined the EU in 2007, but those limits end on Dec 31, 2013.
Sarah Mulley, the associate director of the IPPR, said: “Although net migration will fall next year, the Government is fast running out of options for further restricting non-EU immigration in any significant way.
“This may leave future progress against the net migration target dependent on patterns of EU migration and emigration, both of which are unpredictable and largely outside government control.
“The next two years will show the limits of government action on net migration as the Government runs out of ways to significantly reduce numbers further.”
The “tens of thousands” pledge is not official government policy because of disagreement between Conservatives and Liberal Democrat ministers. The issue has been one of the running sores since 2010, despite party differences being enshrined in the Coalition Agreement.
After Mr Cameron made his promise, Vince Cable, the Liberal Democrat Business Secretary, branded the intervention “unwise” and said the Prime Minister risked “inflaming extremism”.
Universities and MPs also claimed that including students in permanent migration figures was misleading and risked damaging higher education.
Mr Cable’s Department for Business, Innovation and Skills estimated the total value of Britain’s education exports as £14.7billion in 2010.
In future, after a Government announcement this year, overseas students will be clearly identified in official immigration figures and “disaggregated” within net migration data for the first time.
An intolerant British feminist — perhaps a Lesbian — gets a reply
The president of the Girls’ Schools Association, Hilary French, has fired another broadside in the battle of the sexes. “We are still creating a generation of girls who think that the whole idea of looking after children is really the most important thing,” she complained to the Press Association. “We do still expect women to be at the core of the relationship, the homemaker, the person who brings up children.”
She cited a meeting between business leaders and schoolchildren. “One of the young entrepreneurs,” she said, “a lady, dared to say that she had probably put her business ahead of her son, and the sharp intake of breath from all of the girls was audible.”
It should be unnecessary to state that women absolutely deserve absolute equality. To every reasonable person, this is self-evident, as is the fact that gender equality is woefully lacking in certain areas of British life, especially in places like the boardroom and Parliament. The difficult question, however, is what having equality really means.
Many people feel that the rush to redress the gender imbalance has bankrupted traditional women’s roles. This is no new concern. Writing in the Sunday Telegraph in 1972, the eminent author and psychiatrist Ann Dally put it very well: “The happiest women I know don’t go around wondering what sort of women they ought to be. They don’t worry about whether they ought or ought not to leave the children and they don’t feel guilty if they prefer a life of total domesticity to the excitement of the big wide world. They’re all very different, but they have one thing in common. They all understand what sort of people they are and make use of the opportunities that suit them. And they do not allow themselves to be influenced by people who say what women should and should not do.”
Mrs French is the headmistress of Central Newcastle High School, an independent girls’ day school. One of the school’s stated aims is to allow every girl “the opportunity to become a confident, self-assured young woman”. Herein lies the challenge: a young woman – and, for that matter, a young man – must separate the weight of social expectation and prejudice from her true sense of what will fulfil her. This will certainly require a great deal of “confidence” and “self-assurance”.
Although women must of course have full access to traditional male roles, to see that as the only possible means of equality constitutes merely an inverted form of oppression. Ultimately, it deprives women – as well as men – of their ability to be equal and different; or to put at another way, to be equal on their own terms. The fact that women are prevented from pursuing highflying careers by society’s loaded dice is completely unacceptable in modern Britain. At the same time, however, it must be recognised that real freedom entails the ability to choose one’s way of life without stigma. If a woman wants to be a mother and homemaker, there should be no pressure against that, either.
Battle of the professors: Richard Dawkins branded a fundamentalist by expert behind the ‘God particle’
Athiest campaigner Richard Dawkins was yesterday branded a ‘fundamentalist’ by one of his most eminent scientific colleagues.
The militancy of Professor Dawkins’s attacks on religious belief mean he is ‘almost a fundamentalist himself’, scientist Peter Higgs said.
Professor Higgs, whose theory on the sub-atomic ‘God particle’ was recently supported by experiments at the Cern research centre near Geneva, is considered one of the world’s leading scientists and is widely tipped for a Nobel prize.
Professor Higgs is an atheist and has said he doesn’t like that the particle is nicknamed the ‘God particle’, as he believes the term ‘might offend people who are religious’.
Dawkins’ criticism of the teaching of creationism in schools has earned him the moniker ‘Darwin’s rottweiler’, a reference to biologist T. H. Huxley, known as ‘Darwin’s Bulldog’ for his advocacy of evolutionary ideas.
Professor Higgs has used his new status to pour scorn on 71-year-old Professor Dawkins, a champion of evolution and author of The God Delusion which argues that belief in God is irrational.
Professor Dawkins’s contempt for religion has recently led him to suggest that being raised as a Roman Catholic is worse for a child than physical abuse.
But Professor Higgs said that Professor Dawkins has caricatured religious believers as extremists and ignored those who try to reconcile their beliefs with science.
In an interview with the Spanish newspaper El Mundo, Professor Higgs, who is 83, said: ‘What Dawkins does too often is to concentrate his attack on fundamentalists. But there are many believers who are not just fundamentalists.
‘Fundamentalism is another problem. I mean, Dawkins in a way is almost a kind of fundamentalist himself.’
Professor Higgs also told the newspaper: ‘The growth of our understanding of the world through science weakens some of the motivation which makes people believers.
‘But that’s not the same thing as saying they are incompatible. It is just that I think some of the traditional reasons for belief, going back thousands of years, are rather undermined.
Roman Catholic former Tory MP Ann Widdecombe said: ‘Dawkins doesn’t know what to say next to get attention. No sane person would believe that being brought up in a force for good, in the Ten Commandments, in the Beatitudes, and in the Gospels can be worse than child abuse.’
‘But that doesn’t end the whole thing. Anybody who is a convinced but not a dogmatic believer can continue to hold his belief. It means I think you have to be rather more careful about the whole debate between science and religion than some people have been in the past.’
Professor Higgs added that a lot of scientists were also religious believers. I don’t happen to be one myself, but maybe that’s just more a matter of my family background than that there is any fundamental difficulty about reconciling the two,’ he added.
The criticism of Professor Dawkins – who was Oxford University’s Professor of the Public Understanding of Science from 1995 until 2008 – ends a year in which his determination to condemn religion has led to a number of abrasive arguments.
Christians have no right to refuse to work on Sundays, rules British judge
Judges have been accused of diluting the rights of Christians after a key judgment on whether they can refuse to work on Sundays.
A new ruling by a High Court judge – the first on the issue in nearly a decade – says that Christians have no right to decline working on Sunday as it is not a “core component” of their beliefs.
The judgment – which upholds an earlier decision – means that individual Christians do not have any protection from being fired for not working on Sundays.
Campaigners said the decision puts Christians at a disadvantage to other religions and means the judiciary are deciding what the core beliefs of Christians can be, which they say is an interference in the right to practise religion.
The judgment was issued by Mr Justice Langstaff as he ruled on an appeal brought by a Christian woman who was sacked after she refused to work on Sundays at a care home.
Celestina Mba claimed the council she worked for pressured her to work on Sundays and threatened her with disciplinary measures – even though other workers were willing to take the shifts.
The 57 year-old, from Streatham Vale, south London, worships every Sunday at her Baptist church, where she is also part of the ministry team offering pastoral care and support to the congregation.
She said that when she took the position in 2007 providing respite care for children with severe learning difficulties at the Brightwell children’s home in Morden, south-west London managers initially agreed to accommodate the requirements of her faith.
But within a few months of starting the job, Miss Mba said managers began pressuring her to work on Sundays.
She found herself repeatedly allocated Sunday shifts and threatened with disciplinary measures unless she agreed to compromise her church commitments, meaning she had no alternative but to resign from the job she loved, she said.
The care worker launched an unsuccessful legal claim in February this year and this month lost her appeal in the High Court.
Her constructive dismissal case was funded by the Christian Legal Centre which instructed Paul Diamond, a leading religious rights barrister.
Mr Justice Langstaff, who as president of the Employment Appeal Tribunal is the most senior judge in England and Wales in this type of case, upheld the lower tribunal’s ruling which said it was relevant that other Christians did not ask for Sundays off.
The fact that some Christians were prepared to work on Sundays meant it was not protected, the court said.
The senior judge said that a rule imposed by an employer which affected nearly every Christian would have a greater discriminatory impact than one which only affected a few.
There was evidence that many Christians work on Sundays and this was relevant in “weighing” the impact of the employers’ rule, and the earlier decision did not involve an error of law, he added.
Campaigners said the ruling showed that Christians are being treated less favourably than people from other religions, such as Muslims, Jews and Sikhs. They pointed to cases where the courts offered protection to other religions even when only a minority of adherents were affected.
In 2008 Sarika Watkins-Singh, then 14, successfully claimed she was a victim of unlawful discrimination because she had been excluded from school in Aberdare, south Wales, for breaking a jewellery ban by refusing to remove a “kara” bangle which she said was central to her faith.
But in her case the court did not examine how many Sikhs wanted to wear similar items of jewellery.
The judgment in Miss Mba’s case will fuel concerns that judges are promoting secularism. A report from the cross-party Christians in Parliament group warned earlier this year that there was a lack of religious literacy among judges, politicians and officials.
Andrea Williams, director of Christian Concern, said of the latest ruling: “The court in this case created an unrealistic test which means that people like Celestina who wish to respect the Sabbath will be forced out of the workplace.
“The court seems to be requiring a significant number of adherents of the Christian faith to observe a particular practice before the court is willing to accept and protect the practice.
“In the past year we have seen mandatory tests of faith in relation to the wearing of crosses by Christians, belief about marriage between a man and a woman and now observing the Sabbath when in all cases reasonable accommodation could have been made.
“Such tests do not appear to be similarly applied to Muslims who are permitted to wear the hijab and observe prayers and Sikhs with the kara bracelet.”
In 1994, when Sunday trading in England was liberalised shopworkers were given a guarantee that working would be strictly voluntary, but the guarantee did not apply to people in other sectors.
The Employment Equality (Religion or Belief) Regulations, published in 2003, say employers must justify Sunday working as a “legitimate business need” and does not give a blanket right to Christians not to work.
If employers fail to treat staff fairly and proportionately, the employee may be able to claim discrimination, the rules add.
The last ruling by judges was when a quarry worker claimed his Christian beliefs had been treated with “contempt” by employers who tried to force him to work on Sundays in 2003.
Stephen Copsey lost his case at the Court of Appeal in 2005, with judges ruling his employer had “compelling economic reasons” for insisting that he worked on Sundays.
Yvette Stanley of Merton council, Miss Mba’s former employers, said it did its best to allow religious practice but also had a duty to meet the needs of the disabled children for whom it cares and added: “We are pleased with the outcome of this second tribunal. Staff recruited in the respite care service are advised that it is by its nature a weekend service.”