Crazy plan to close a successful hospital to bail out a broke one
Only a British bureaucrat would think that made sense
Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt is under mounting pressure to prevent the closure of a highly successful Accident and Emergency unit, as doctors warn it could set a ‘disturbing precedent’ for further cutbacks across the NHS.
Mr Hunt has been asked to approve hugely unpopular plans to close the A&E and maternity units at Lewisham Hospital in South East London in order to drag a neighbouring hospital Trust out of a £207 million debt.
The plans, handed to Mr Hunt this week, are highly controversial because Lewisham Hospital is well-respected and recently underwent a £12 million refurbishment. But Government-appointed administrators want to close services there to divert cash to the bankrupt South London Healthcare NHS Trust next door.
Mr Hunt must make the final decision on the plans, but faces huge opposition from furious doctors and patients who have described the proposals as ‘a travesty’.
Critics also claim the plans are an abuse of legislation designed to help bail out struggling hospitals.
Mr Hunt has previously insisted no A&Es should be closed purely to save cash, so any decision to cut services in Lewisham would be an embarrassing U-turn.
He will also face criticism if he decides to save Lewisham’s A&E because the consultation process which led to the recommendations ran 25 per cent over budget and cost taxpayers £5.1 million.
Andy Burnham, the Shadow Health Minister, last night said the official plans ‘break every rule in the book’, and he vowed to fight to make sure the closure ‘does not happen’.
‘The Lewisham situation takes the NHS over a very dangerous line and is potentially the first back-door reconfiguration in the NHS,’ he said. ‘It says hospital services can be changed for purely financial reasons which has never been the case in the past.
‘Where’s the clinical case for change in all of this? I know the legislation on this issue was never intended to be used in this way because I put it through Parliament,’ said the former Labour Health Secretary. ‘The terms of the Act say administrators must make recommendations relating to the particular Trust which is failing.’
The situation has come about because South London Healthcare NHS Trust, next door to Lewisham Hospital, is struggling to cope with a huge overspend caused by spiralling Private Finance Initiative debts. That Trust was taken over last year under Government legislation designed to help bail out struggling hospitals. It is being run by administrator Matthew Kershaw, charged with coming up with recommendations to prevent it from going bankrupt.
Mr Kershaw’s plans, passed to Mr Hunt last week, involve downgrading the A&E to an urgent care centre and closing the maternity unit.
The proposals will cost £151.3 million over three years to implement, according to official documents – nearly three quarters of the debt Mr Hunt is trying to erase.
Chidi Ejimofo, an emergency medicine consultant at Lewisham, said: ‘The consultation has been a sham. Local GPs and GP commissioning groups do not want this. We’ve put together alternative suggestions but the final recommendations went through unchanged. Nobody is safe because of this. Any Trust in the country could be reconfigured without going through the normal processes.’
John O’Donohue, a consultant physician at Lewisham, said it set a ‘disturbing precedent. These plans are a travesty – unsafe, rushed and unjust.’
A Department of Health spokesman said: ‘Each NHS Trust is part of a complex wider local health system. It may not be possible to find a solution without considering the impact on other hospitals in the area.’
Life-extending cancer drugs ‘rationed by postcode’: Dozens of hospitals refuse to hand out treaments
Hospitals are denying patients the latest life-extending cancer drugs, a report reveals.
Dozens of trusts are failing to hand out treatments for bowel, ovarian, lung and brain cancer that have been approved by the NHS watchdog NICE.
Some of these drugs have been shown to boost survival rates by a quarter while others have extended the lives of terminally-ill patients by over a year.
The report – commissioned by the Department of Health – also reveals that many hospitals are failing to prescribe the latest treatments for heart attacks, asthma, multiple sclerosis, arthritis and Crohn’s Disease.
In fact some of the drugs were approved for use by NICE more than seven years ago.
Ministers and charities say it is ‘completely unacceptable’ that patients are being denied drugs that could extend their lives or drastically improve their symptoms.
The report also reveals huge variation between hospitals with some routinely prescribing these new treatments while others have not offered them to anyone at all.
It is unclear why some hospitals are refusing to provide the new drugs but it may be that doctors prefer to use existing treatments they have trusted over the years.
Health minister, Lord Howe, said: ‘Patients have a right to medicines and treatments that have been approved by NICE and are clinically appropriate for them, and it is completely unacceptable if this is not happening. ‘We are determined to drive out unjustified variation.’
And Andrew Wilson, Chief Executive of the Rarer Cancers Foundation said: ‘NICE was meant to end the postcode lottery but these figures show that it is alive and well.
‘Access to drugs should not depend on where you live or in which hospital you are treated. ‘The NHS needs to act urgently to tackle these inequalities which are resulting in patients missing out on treatment which could save, extend or improve their lives.’
The report – published by the Health and Social Care Information Centre – shows how frequently treatments approved by NICE are being prescribed by hospitals and GPs.
Officials insist that the data is ‘experimental’ – and has never been collected in this way before – so it is too early to draw any firm conclusions.
Nonetheless, it reveals that one drug for advanced bowel cancer is not being used by at least 25 hospital trusts – even though it was approved by NICE in 2006. And at least 24 trusts are not giving women with advanced ovarian cancer the drug Paclitaxel, even though it could extend their lives by an extra year. The drug was approved by NICE in 2005, more than seven years ago.
Another 15 trusts are refusing to give lung cancer patients Erlonitib – approved by NICE in 2008 – which halts the progression of tumours for more than a year.
Dozens of hospitals were also failing to prescribe treatments for brain cancer, severe asthma, Crohn’s Disease, the prevention of heart attacks and multiple sclerosis.
Katherine Murphy, chief executive of the Patients Association, said: ‘Patients have the right to drugs and treatments that have been recommended by NICE for use in the NHS, if their doctor says they are clinically appropriate. ‘Any perception that there is a rationing of NICE approved medication taking place at a local level is a real concern.’
Huge legal splurge by British animal charity under scrutiny
Funds spent on top lawyers, not cats and dogs
Senior figures at the RSPCA have been summoned to see the charity watchdog to defend their decision to spend £326,000 on prosecuting David Cameron’s local hunt
The RSPCA was reported to the Charity Commission by MPs and peers last month for controversially funding the successful prosecution against the Heythrop Hunt. Mr Cameron is a local MP in the area where the Heythrop hunts.
Now it has emerged that the charity’s senior executives have been called in by William Shawcross, the Commission’s chairman, for “an early meeting” to discuss its “prosecutions in general and the case in particular”.
The hunt and its members were fined £6,800 after admitting four charges of unlawfully hunting a wild fox with dogs last month.
But District Judge Tim Pattinson drew attention to the fact that the cost of the private prosecution was nearly ten times more than the defence costs of £35,000.
The group, which included Lord Heseltine and Tory MP Simon Hart, reported the RSPCA’s 18 trustees to the Commission for breaching a “duty of prudence” which governs the actions of all charity trustees under charity legislation.
They told the watchdog that they had “concerns about the motivation for bringing this prosecution” and questioned why the RSPCA engaged three barristers as well as firm of specialist insurance solicitors when it had its own in-house legal team.
In a reply to the letter sent on Tuesday this week, Mr Shawcross said: “Given the concerns raised by the judge, by yourselves and by others, we are seeking an early meeting with the RSPCA to discuss their approach to prosecutions in general and to this case in particular.”
He continued: “The RSPCA is an independent charity and has a long history of bringing prosecutions in furtherance of its purposes. This is permitted under the charity’s governing document.
“In carrying out their duties, all charity trustees must act reasonably, in the best interests of their charity and in accordance with its aims and purposes.
“When considering prosecutions, trustees must always consider whether bringing a prosecution is a reasonable and effective use of the charity’s resources, what are the prospects of success and whether the public interest is served.
“The exercise of the duty of prudence, to which you refer in your letter, embodies all the responsibilities of trustees. “So long as trustees act in accordance with these requirements, their decisions would not normally be a matter of regulatory intervention by the Commission.”
The “duty of prudence” is a duty to conserve the property of the trust. It is not a duty set out in the Charities Act 2006 or any other statute, but reflects principles defined through cases dealt within the courts.
Last night Mr Hart, who is a former chief executive of the Countryside Alliance, said: “I am pleased the Charity Commission is treating this with the seriousness that it deserves.
White Britons are now a minority in Leicester, Luton and Slough and Birmingham is set to follow by end of decade
Three towns and cities have joined London in having a minority white British population.
Researchers say more than 50 per cent of people living in Leicester, Luton and Slough are either foreign or from an ethnic minority.
Birmingham is expected to have a similar make-up by 2020.
Changing face of Britain: Three places outside London have a minority of white Britons. This graph shows the growth of other nationalities in Britain
Changing face of Britain: Three places outside London have a minority of white Britons. This graph shows the growth of other non-white groups in the UK since 1991 in thousands
The findings are based on the 2011 national census, in which residents were asked which ethnic group they were in.
The census also broke the white population down into those who see themselves as white British and those who consider they are ‘white other’ – a group that will include immigrants from Europe as well as Australasia and America.
London has already been shown to have a white British population of only 45 per cent.
Yesterday’s breakdown showed that those who call themselves white British amount to 45 per cent of the population of Leicester, 45 per cent of the population of Luton and only just over a third, 35 per cent, of the people of Slough.
The white populations in all three are swollen by the presence of white migrants, including high numbers of Eastern Europeans who have arrived since their countries joined the EU and they were given the right to live in Britain in 2004.
The analysis, by academics at the University of Manchester, said the comparative decline of white British numbers does not mean that ethnically mixed towns and cities have become less British.
The children of immigrants who were born in this country tend to regard themselves as British, it said. ‘Eighty-one per cent of Luton’s residents have a British national identity while 45 per cent are of the white British ethnic group,’ added the report.
‘We already know from other sources that British identity is felt at least as strongly by those of minority ethnicity as those of white British ethnicity.’
‘This is the case for people of similar age and background born in the UK: younger, more highly educated people, and those born overseas all express less strong British identity.’
It also said segregation is decreasing and residential mixing of different groups became more common between 2001 and 2011.
According to the research, two thirds of Leicester’s 330,000 population were born in the UK. The city, it found, has 17 ethnic groups more than 1,000 strong.
In Luton, only 91,000 of the 203,000 population say they are white British, but 165,000 people regard themselves as British.
In Slough, of 140,000 people, 48,000 say they are white British but 108,000 say their identity is British.
Results for Newham in East London, where fewer than one in six are white British, show two thirds of people say they are British.
Ludi Simpson, professor of population studies at Manchester University, said: ‘We need to understand changing ethnic composition to understand our citizens’ changing needs.
‘Housing, school meals, care of older people, cultural and entertainment facilities, funeral services and many other aspects of local services are intrinsically affected.’
Record one in six British students now graduates with a first: Fresh concern over grade inflation after figure triples since late 1990s
A record number of graduates have been awarded first-class degrees, prompting fresh concern over rampant ‘grade inflation’. The number of students given first-class honours soared 16 per cent last year – the biggest increase on record.
More than a sixth of students now graduate with the top grade following a tripling in firsts awarded since the late-90s.
The trend is thought to be linked to moves by universities to reduce the number of traditional exams that students sit in favour of coursework.
Some degrees no longer require students to sit a single exam during their entire three years of study. Good results are said to be easier to achieve in coursework than exams.
Some leading employers are already threatening to demand first-class degrees from job applicants instead of 2.1s due to the rise in top grades. University leaders yesterday admitted the 200-year-old degree classification system was a ‘blunt instrument’.
Most students who started university this academic year will be given a school-style report alongside the main degree classification in an attempt to give employers more information about their breakdown of marks.
Many in higher education hope the initiative will lead to degree classes being scrapped altogether but some leading universities are sceptical about the Higher Education Achievement Report (HEAR) and have no plans to adopt it.
Figures published by the Higher Education Statistics Agency show that 61,605 students were awarded firsts last year – a tripling since 1999 when 20,700 achieved the best possible grade.
In 1999, only 8 per cent of pupils achieved a first. By 2011, this had risen to 15.5 per cent and last year went up again to 16.9 per cent – the biggest annual rise in nearly 20 years of records held by HESA.
A record 66 per cent of students graduated with at least a 2.1, up from 64 per cent the year before and 61 per cent in 2008. Last year 49 per cent graduated with a 2.1, 27.5 per cent a 2.2 and 6.6 per cent a third or ordinary pass. A further 26,715 failed to gain a classification.
According to the Association of Graduate Recruiters, 2.1 degrees are the ‘most common select criteria’, used by 76 per cent of employers who filter out applicants with a 2.2 or worse.
It said some bosses were ‘considering increasing their requirement to a minimum of a first degree classification due to the high volume of their graduates who actually achieve this’.
The Universities UK umbrella body said the rise in firsts and 2.1s over the past decade had been fuelled by booming A-level performance, which was brought to a crashing halt last summer under measures introduced to tackle grade inflation.
Nicola Dandridge, chief executive, said: ‘The sector has recognised for some time that the current degree classification system is a blunt instrument. Hence the recommendation last year that, from autumn 2012, all students entering undergraduate degrees will leave with a HEAR, as well as a degree certificate.
‘The aim of the HEAR is to provide a more detailed account of what a student has actually achieved during their studies, rather than just a one-off degree classification.’
A breakdown by sex showed that 17.3 per cent of men got firsts compared with 16.6 per cent of women, while women were more likely to get 2.1s.
Even a cautious Warmist still can’t stick to the truth; The truth is just pesky for Warmists
The Warmist below is careful not to make claims of current and recent warming but says that it is still happening in the long term and it is the long term that matters. He cherrypicks a few older periods that suit his thesis but is both vague and dishonest about the REAL long term period he quotes: The last century as a whole. He fails to mention that it warmed to only a trivial degree then — less than one degree Celsius — and if that generally unnoticed change is the basis for his concern then we don’t have much to worry about
Article below by British writer Geoffrey Lean, who is said to have “pioneered the coverage of green issues long before they became fashionable”
Confused? You have every right to be. On just one day this week, it was reported that the heatwave that has lit wildfires across Australia is so unprecedented that two new colours have had to be added to weather forecasting maps; that 2012 had been by far the hottest year on record in the United States; that the blue-chip World Economic Forum had identified climate change as one of the world’s most urgent dangers; and that, nevertheless, the Met Office had concluded that global warming had stalled.
Both sides of the ever more acrimonious climate debate predictably rushed to contrasting conclusions. Environmentalists hailed the US and Australian records as confirmation that dangerous climate change has arrived – with some displaying distasteful schadenfreude that two of the most climate-sceptic countries besides Britain had been hit. And sceptics claimed that the Met Office had “finally conceded” that “there is no evidence that global warming is happening”. Both, of course, were exaggerating.
The Met Office’s chief scientist, Prof Julia Slingo, insisted that “the warming trend has not gone away”, torpedoing any suggestion of such a concession. And indeed the report that caused the fuss suggests that heating of the planet has not stopped, but slowed. Published with typical “barbecue summer” bungling on Christmas Eve – leading to understandable accusations of attempts to bury inconvenient news – the dry “decadal forecast” concluded that on average global temperatures over the next five years were “most likely” to be 0.43C above the average for 1971-2000, slightly lower than a similar forecast last year, which put it at 0.54C.
Interesting, but not exactly dramatic, particularly since it suggests that the world is indeed getting warmer over the long term, if not as fast as had been thought. But sceptics raised the stakes by pointing out that the 0.43 rise was almost identical to a 0.4 increase in 1998. They claimed this showed that temperatures have not risen significantly for 15 years.
But that is statistical sleight of hand, comparing an average temperature expected over five years with one for a single year (and an anomalous one at that). As we all know, weather naturally varies: some years are warmer, some cooler – and 1998, as it happens, is the hottest the Met Office has recorded.
It is therefore often picked by sceptics to suggest that the world is not heating up, since by definition a line drawn from it to any other year on the temperature graph would go downwards. If, instead, you were to pick 1996, a relatively cool year, as the starting point, it would suggest that the thermometer has been rapidly rising – but that would be equally misleading.
The only honest way to make comparisons is on a longer timescale, and on that basis it is clear that every decade since the 1960s has been warmer than the previous one, and that average temperatures have increased markedly over the past century. [False! Two thirds of one degree over an entire century is hardly “markedly”] But it’s also true that over the past 15 years or so, the rate of warming has slowed down.
No one knows why. It may be natural variation; there have been other periods – 1973-1980 and 1988-1995 – where global warming seems to have stalled, only for temperatures to resume their rise. Or it may be caused by the cooling effect of massive air pollution in China; but that would disappear once it is cleaned up. It might also be that the heating process may be about to go into retreat, but there is no plausible scientific reason why that should be so, and no evidence for it.
Yet it is also wrong firmly to attribute Australia’s heatwave or America’s unprecedented year to climate change. Weather’s natural variability has ensured that extremes have occurred – and records set – throughout history. Again, the only honest thing to do is to look at long-term trends.
But these suggest that something is indeed afoot. Days above 37.8C are now five times more common than between 1911 and 1930 and extremely hot summers are 10 times more widespread globally than between 1951 and 1980.
There is no doubt that the world has warmed, and that this will continue. Certainly, picking an exceptionally hot year from the past to suggest that the world is not warming is like asserting that summer will not come this year because the mild weather of the past week is about to be replaced by a cold snap.
British Met office now resorting to outright lies
There has been much discussion in recent days about the new decadal forecast of global temperatures, sneaked out by the UK Met Office on Christmas Eve, and which shows flatlining temperatures instead of the the rapidly increasing ones previously forecast.
However, on studying the current forecast (at top), and comparing it with the previous version (below) issued in December 2011, I noticed a bit of jiggery pokery. Have a look and see if you can spot it.
The white curves are previous predictions, as the narrative explains. In the latest version, this line heads downwards from around 2005 to today’s levels. In other words, they seem to be giving the impression that previous predictions anticipated the drop in temperatures in the last couple of years.
Yet look at the Dec 2011 version, and you can see that this is absolutely not what they were predicting then. On the contrary, they were forecasting a significant increase in temperatures throughout the period.
It would appear that the Met have deliberately fabricated a new version of their Dec 2011 forecast, in order to avoid making the original version look too ridiculous.
Is this really what “science” has come down to?
SOURCE (See the original for links and graphics)
British Labor’s solar swindle: Cost of green subsidies will add £1 billion to family household bills
Ed Miliband’s controversial scheme to encourage homeowners to install solar panels and wind turbines is set to cost families an extra £1billion in higher bills, figures reveal.
Subsidies for solar panels rose 14-fold last year as individuals and businesses piled into the scheme, criticised as being a licence to print money.
The payments, funded by a levy on electricity bills, jumped from £9.2million in 2010/11 to £128.3million in 2011/12, according to figures compiled by energy regulator Ofgem.
But over the same time the average efficiency of schemes fell by more than 40 per cent – because of a lack of sunshine.
Subsidies for domestic wind turbines trebled over the same period, rising from £2.3million to almost £7million.
Households are paid for the electricity they return to the National Grid but the payments are far above market rates, requiring heavy subsidies.
In total the budget for so-called `feed-in tariffs’ rose from £14.4million to £150.7million – an increase of 944 per cent in only 12 months.
The soaring cost means the scheme is now forecast to go more than £1billion over budget by 2015, bringing more misery for cash-strapped consumers.
The scheme, introduced by Mr Miliband when he was climate change secretary in Gordon Brown’s government, was meant to encourage the development of technology which could help provide a source of renewable energy. But critics have warned that it is absurdly generous.
Under 25-year deals, householders were originally paid 41p for every kilowatt hour of electricity generated by their solar panels.
This was later reduced to 21p and then scaled back again to 16p last year because of concern among ministers about the burgeoning cost of the scheme. But an attempt to cut the payment to 10p was thrown out by the High Court following a legal challenge by Friends of the Earth.
Tory MP Dominic Raab said the scheme was another example of Labour profligacy. He added: `Ed Miliband’s flagship green subsidies have proved a ludicrously expensive way of backing inefficient technology.
`If he can do that for energy policy, just think what damage he would wreak on the economy. The solar subsidies inherited from Labour have been nothing short of a giant waste of time and money.
`It’s crazy for politicians to try to pick scientific and commercial winners. It just ends up hiking energy bills paid by hard-pressed households and business, without making us more energy efficient.’
A source at the Department of Energy and Climate Change last night said a new regime had been put in place to review the solar subsidies every three months to check they were not too high.
The source acknowledged that thousands of people had made windfall profits but blamed it on the legacy from the last Labour government.
They added: `The scheme we inherited meant that when the costs of solar technology plummeted we could not get the tariffs down as quickly as we needed to.
`That has now changed and the scheme is producing valuable renewable energy.’ The source insisted that officials were looking to adjust other subsidy schemes to try to minimise the impact on electricity bills.
Must not wish ill on car thieves in Britain
When Lesley Ross’s car was stolen she reported the theft to the police but didn’t hold out much hope of them finding it. So she decided to turn detective herself.
Her boyfriend took to the streets of Aberdeen in search of the top-of-the-range Audi and Lesley went on Facebook to appeal for help. Soon, sightings were flooding in every 15 minutes. The Audi was still in the city and one report had it being followed by a police car.
Lesley kept up a running commentary online.
As the hunt progressed, Lesley wrote: ‘Why can’t the cops catch them? They (the thieves) must have been keeping an eye on my house. They have stolen my Range Rover spare keys, too. Are they planning on coming back?
‘Feel sick thinking about it. Hope they wrap the car round a lamp-post and maim themselves.’
At 10.30pm that night, while her boyfriend Ricky Strachan was still scouring the streets, two police officers knocked on the door. Had they found the car? No, they had come to give her ‘words of advice’ about the way she was ‘handling things on Facebook’.
Lesley admits she may have been a little intemperate, but can’t believe that the police appeared to be more concerned about her remarks on a social network than finding her car.
It does seem extraordinary that while the police could find time to warn Lesley about her ‘offensive’ comments on Facebook, they couldn’t actually track down a stolen car which was being driven at high speed through the streets of Aberdeen.