Growing fears of Bolton hospital death rate ‘cover up’
The deaths of up to 400 patients may have been misrecorded by a major hospital to prevent it having among the highest death rates in the country, an independent report suggests.
As many as half of patients recorded as having blood poisoning at the Royal Bolton Hospital in 2011/12 may have in fact suffered from less serious conditions, found the report by Dr Foster.
It is investigating concerns that staff at the hospital mid-coded patients to mask high death rates.
Septicaemia is coded in a different way to other illnesses, means resultant deaths have a far lower effect on hospital mortality figures.
In 2011/12, 1,419 patients died at the hospital, just slightly above the expected figure of 1378.
Last week Dr Jackie Bene, acting medical director at the Royal Bolton Hospital in Greater Manchester, stepped aside due to concerns patients were incorrectly coded as having septicaemia.
In 2011 some 800 patients – not all of whom died – were recorded as having septicaemia, four times that expected for a hospital of its size. The same year death rates came down from being well above average, to below average.
Dr Foster has concluded that 76 of 150 it analysed did not “meet national standards”. Of these, 69 were the result of a retrospective clinical validation process, said a spokesman.
Dr Wirin Bhatiani, a local GP who helped first raise the issue, said: “The final report confirms that clinical coding of sepsis is of concern”.
He added: “This report looked at the quality of the coding process; we now need medical input to understand how and why this happened, and to understand if the coding was clinically appropriate.”
Dr Bhatiani represents the Bolton NHS clinical commissioning group (CCG), which pays for many hospital services.
A CCG spokesman said: “As a result of the report’s findings and recommendations, we are now supporting a further clinical review to understand the implications of Dr Foster’s findings from a clinical perspective.”
David Wakefield, chairman of the trust, said: “We are pleased that the report raises no concerns about standards of treatment and care.
“We want to ensure that trust’s coding validation process meets the highest quality standards and have agreed with the CCG the remit of an independent clinical review.”
Judge derails plans to close children’s heart surgery unit, slamming the ‘secretive’ approach of NHS bosses
A High Court judge has derailed controversial plans to close a children’s heart surgery unit because of the ‘secretive’ approach of NHS chiefs.
There were scenes of jubilation after the decision to close the centre at Leeds General ruled Infirmary as part of a national reorganisation was unfair and legally flawed.
The NHS announced last July it wanted to close three units and keep seven open, with patients in Yorkshire being forced to travel to Liverpool or Newcastle for treatment.
But Mrs Justice Davies backed claims by the Save Our Surgery (SOS) group that the consultation process to decide which units should be axed was unfair because details of how a panel of experts marked individual hospitals were kept secret.
The judge will announce crucial decisions about what happens next at a further court hearing later this month.
Sharon Cheng from SOS said despite winning the case ‘on every point’, the ruling did not necessarily mean the Leeds heart unit was saved.
There is huge support for keeping child heart surgery in the region and nearly 600,000 people signed a petition against closure of the unit.
‘The campaign started small, like David and Goliath, then grew and grew out of all proportions,’ she said.
The group spokeswoman slammed the review process conducted by the Joint Committee of Primary Care Trusts (JCPCT) as being ‘secretive.’
Miss Cheng said: ‘It was important the process had transparency and openness and they failed in our opinion.
Winning this case in the High Court proves once and for all that the supposed consultation was a rubber-stamping exercise conducted with an outcome in mind, with clinicians, MPs and patients fooled into feeling they had influence.
‘This action was taken by parents and clinicians who simply could not stand by and watch a clear injustice being done.’ During the national review each hospital unit was visited by a panel of experts and given a performance mark.
The panel produced ‘sub-scores’ which gave marks for a wide range of criteria, but these weren’t disclosed to the hospital units lobbying to stay open until after the final decision was made.
Philip Havers, QC, for SOS, successfully argued the centres were ‘shooting in the dark’ during the consultation process as they had no idea of how they were being viewed.
The JCPCT also ended up ‘assessing in the dark’ as it refused to look at the sub-scores when making its decision and only took account of the total mark.
Mrs Justice Davies said in her ruling: ‘As the scores were relevant to the assessment, the breakdown of the scoring should have been disclosed to the centres whether or not the JCPCT proposed to look at it.’ JCPCT chairman Sir Neil McKay said later he hoped the court would not quash the NHS review ‘in its entirety.’
He said: ‘The pressing need to reform children’s heart services is long overdue and experts have cautioned that further delay in achieving the necessary change would be a major setback in improving outcomes for children with heart disease.
‘The judgment focuses on a single matter of process, but the case for the reconfiguration of children’s heart surgical services remains strong.’
Following a series of reviews over the past decade NHS chiefs decided to concentrate the specialist services in fewer but larger centres that would give a higher quality of care for child heart patients.
The sites currently chosen to stay open are at Bristol, Birmingham, Liverpool, Newcastle, Southampton and two London centres.
Facing closure are the Leeds site and units at Leicester’s Glenfield Hospital and London’s Royal Brompton.
The Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu, yesterday welcomed the ruling and said earmarking the Leeds unit for closure was ‘utterly unjustified and unethical.’ He said the evidence must be looked at properly: ‘We cannot afford to rush and make a bodge job of this.’
Choosing A-levels: ‘A new social divide in British education’
Many government schools still encouraging pupils to study junk subjects
Universities want students with core academic A-levels. We need to give schools – particularly in the state sector – an incentive to teach them, says Chris Skidmore.
Like it or loathe it, it is undeniable that the EBacc – the measure of performance at GCSE that tracks the proportion of pupils gaining passes in core academic subjects – is slowly transforming the educational landscape.
In 1997, just under 50 per cent of pupils entered GCSEs in English, maths, two sciences, a language and either history or geography. By 2010, this figure had more than halved, with only 22 per cent of pupils sitting these subjects. Enter the EBacc, and an IPSOS-MORI survey suggests the percentage of pupils taking the full EBacc will be back up to 49 per cent as soon as 2014.
Over the same period, the percentage of pupils taking GCSEs in history will go up from 31 per cent to 41 per cent, geography from 26 per cent to 36 per cent, a language from 43 per cent to 54 per cent, and triple science from 16 to 34 per cent. It is hard to think of a more influential policy that has had such an immediate effect.
But what about A-levels? It is clear that leading universities are being increasingly explicit about which A-level courses they will look kindly on. In a booklet called Informed Choices, the Russell Group of 24 leading universities list ‘facilitating subjects’ which will keep many doors open for students. These include Maths, English Literature, the sciences, Geography, History and foreign languages.
Yet when we look at what is happening on the ground, students are sadly being failed by schools who are not properly advising students which courses will give them the best chances and the widest choices when they get to applying for higher education.
More worryingly, a new social divide in education is emerging between state and independent schools.
Take a breakdown of the numbers taking A-levels in 2011/12: 22,005 pupils studied media studies, yet just 474 of these were taken in the independent sector. It is the same story across the board: 1,881 pupils studied communication studies, 32 in independent schools; 6,206 studied film studies, 143 in independent schools; and 1044 pupils took performance studies, of which only 21 pupils in independent schools thought the qualification worth taking.
And it’s not just a binary divide between the independent sector and state schools that is alarming: out of 25,806 pupils eligible for free school meals, just 236 took further maths. 5.5 per cent of FSM pupils took history A-level, compared to 11 per cent of non-FSM pupils.
These disparities will leave many poorer pupils disappointed when it comes to applying for universities, as they will find their possible choices have been limited in a way that could have been avoided.
If we are to tackle this glaring social divide we will need to radically rethink our approach. An Advanced Baccalaureate, or ABacc, which provided a solid core in the subjects that count, while allowing for specialisation beyond that, would go a long way to dealing with the problem.
Extending knowledge in key facilitating subjects beyond GCSE level for all students would widen degree options, particularly for students from lower-income backgrounds, while at the same time improving the academic rigour of post-16 education.
The benefits of a broader post-16 curriculum are such that many schools have already embraced alternative qualifications such as the IB and Cambridge Pre-U. This has spread particularly widely in the independent sector, once again putting pupils from better off backgrounds at an advantage. It is time we closed this divide and made it available to everyone, not just the fortunate few.
Energy campaigners concerned with protecting environment are ‘bourgeois’, says British government minister
Energy campaigners concerned with protecting the environment are “bourgeois”, the energy minister suggested yesterday, as he warned that the Government has to focus on “keeping the lights on”.
John Hayes, the Conservative MP for South Holland and The Deepings, dismissed the claims of anti-biofuels campaigners by saying that as a minister he has “got to deal with the practicalities”.
Power stations around the UK are being encouraged to burn wood as part of plans to cut carbon emissions.
Campaigners have warned that biofuels are harmful to the environment and damage valuable land that would otherwise be used for food production.
Sir David King, a former chief scientific adviser to the government, used an interview on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme to voice concerns about the damage biofuels are doing to the environment.
However Mr Hayes dismissed his concerns as “detached, kind of, bourgeois views”.
“My principle responsibility is to keep the lights on and if the lights went off there would be no use in me saying, ‘Well it was for the right reasons’,” Mr Hayes said. “So, energy security is fundamental and that depends on a mix of kinds. Bioenergy is part of that – it’s only part of it.”
Mr Hayes was slapped down by Ed Davey, the Energy Secretary, after he last year called for the spread of wind farms across the countryside to be brought to a halt.
Mr Hayes called for an end to wind farms “peppered” all over the countryside and said that “enough is enough”.
His latest comments risk deepening the Coalition rift over Britain’s green agenda.
Mr Hayes yesterday warned that a focus on environmental concerns could lead to an energy crisis.
“I’m trying to do two jobs,” he said. “I’m trying to make sure people get their power and light and heat they need and I’m trying to reduce carbon emissions.
“And you know it’s all very well having these slightly detached, kind of, bourgeois views about these things, but I’ve got to deal with the practicalities.”
He added: “This is about having a balanced policy a balanced energy mix. We need a bit of gas, we need some renewables, we need nuclear, we need a mix because that guarantees sustainability.”
Mr Hayes added: “We need to be careful and of course we need to be responsible. We have already got standards, and we’re doing further work, to make sure the sources of bioenergy will be sustainable.
“I’m very excited by the idea of energy from waste, if we can get our waste policy working with our energy policy that’s truly sustainable.”
British council spends £210,000 of taxpayers’ money building two ponds for just 18 NEWTS… that’s a cost of £11,666 each
Another Greenie burden on the taxpayer
Town hall bosses will spend £210,000 of taxpayers’ money on two new ponds for just 18 newts
Cheshire East Council agreed the plans yesterday after being told it must create new habitats for a colony of great crested newts that are protected by European law before construction on a £30million bypass can begin.
The move has been slammed by campaigners as ‘unrealistic’ when councils are being forced to slash budgets on frontline services.
The council already has to make £13million of savings this year.
Work on building the new habitat will begin later this month to ensure that the area’s newt population has time to settle into their new habitat.
A council spokesperson said: ‘Great crested newts are a protected species and as such we are required by law to protect their habitat.
‘The £26.5m Crewe Green Link road is a major infrastructure project that will impact on their environment. The money is being used to create a suitable wildlife habitat, including the ponds, that will ensure the species continue to thrive.’
Plans for the 1.1km Crewe Green Link Road – running between Crewe and Stoke-on-Trent – went straight through an area dubbed ‘pond capital of Europe’.
An environmental survey of the affected area counted just 18 of the rare amphibians spread over a 500m area – putting the cost of the project at £11,666.66p per newt.
Construction of the bypass cannot go ahead until the newts are relocated to a new habitat next year.
The ecological study centered around wetlands on either side of Basford Brook, near the village of Weston, Cheshire – known as ‘the pond capital of Europe’ and noted for its wildlife.
Ecologists surveyed 30 ponds, marshes and swamps and found great crested newts in 14 of them.
The largest newt population discovered in a single pond was just six, although eggs were found at ten sites.
The discovery of the newts, which are protected by EU law, has already delayed construction.
The species are one of the most protected in Europe and one of the most endangered. Population numbers are estimated at about 400,000 in the UK.
The cost of creating ‘artificial wetland’ areas is expected to reach £190,000, with an extra £20,000 needed to cover legal and surveying costs.
A report to the council said: ‘The construction of the proposed Crewe Green Link Road South will result in the loss of natural great crested newt habitat areas which in accordance with protected species guidelines must be mitigated by the provision of suitable alternative habitat.
‘This is also a condition of our planning permission for the road.
‘The council will be able to claim some of the money back from the Department for Transport, which is providing 60 per cent of the funding for the bypass – but only if the road scheme goes ahead.’
Matthew Sinclair, Chief Executive of TaxPayers’ Alliance said: ‘This is an incredible amount of money to spend on relocating a group of amphibians to a new pond.
‘For the size of this bill the authorities could have moved several families, not just a group of newts.
‘Protecting endangered wildlife is important, but councils must ensure the costs of doing so are realistic and affordable to taxpayers.’
A Wildlife Trust spokesman said the area – between the A500 and A5020 – was known as a major newt habitat.
He said: ‘This area is an important stronghold for great crested newts, given its long history of ponds and small wetlands. It may even be the “pond capital” of Europe.
‘The creation of new ponds, especially if well-managed, is a tried-and-tested conservation technique to safeguard these rare amphibians.’
British judge rejects bid by recycling lobby to force millions of families to sort all rubbish into five separate bins
DEFRA has admitted that much of the household waste collected for recycling still goes to landfill
Millions of families were today spared the threat of having to split up their household rubbish into at least five separate bags and boxes.
A judge rejected a legal bid by the recycling industry – backed by green pressure groups – to enforce rigorous new recycling rules on every home in the country.
The new recycling regime would have required every council to demand that householders separate their rubbish for recycling into different bins for paper, metal, plastic and glass.
The system would have meant families would also have had to use yet more bins for food and non-recycling rubbish, and for garden waste.
Seven recycling firms who are part of the Campaign for Real Recycling – an organisation also backed by environmental groups including Friends of the Earth – said the complicated recycling rules are necessary to meet the demands of the EU’s Waste Framework Directive.
But in a judicial review heard in the High Court in Cardiff, Mr Justice Hickinbottom said it was ‘unambiguously clear’ that local councils had a right to set their own rules on how to recycle, based on economic and technical practicalities.
The decision comes against a background of continuing political tension over how household rubbish is collected.
Local councils, and both Labour and Coalition governments, have faced discontent from voters following the introduction of compulsory recycling schemes. These include the notorious fortnightly collection systems and kitchen slopbucket collections in which families can be asked to use as many as nine different bins.
Last month the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs admitted that much of the household waste collected for recycling in fact goes to landfill, and that published recycling figures are exaggerated.
It acknowledged that a high proportion of rubbish put out for recycling by householders is rejected by recycling processors as too impure for use in processing plants.
At the same time DEFRA also conceded for the first time that recycling rules have been set out not to meet any British requirements but to comply with the terms of the Brussels directive.
About four in 10 homes in England and Wales already have rubbish collection rules that demand they use separate bins for paper, metal, plastics and glass.
The recycling firms who brought the Cardiff judicial review said that in order to comply with EU rules householders should be made to ensure that recycling is carefully sorted before it is collected by the binmen.
Mr Justice Hickinbottom said in his ruling: ‘They are all members of the Campaign for Real Recycling, and their commercial interest in this claim is underpinned by a strong belief in the environmental benefits of recycling.’
The companies said the EU Waste Framework Directive, agreed in 2008 and which went into operation in 2010, sets down that ‘waste shall be collected separately if technically, environmentally and economically practicable, and shall not be mixed with other waste or other material with different properties.’
But the judge said that the primary objective of the EU regulation was the protection of the environment and public health, not the enforcement of separate collection of waste.
‘It would be contrary to principle, and fundamentally incongruous, if the directive were to require separate collection of each of the four waste streams, if such collection were not necessary to achieve the higher objectives of the directive,’ Mr Justice Hickinbottom said.
‘The evidence before me does not begin to justify the assertion that such collection is in all circumstances necessary for the achievement of the directive’s objectives or any of them.’
The judge refused the recycling companies the right to take their claim to the EU’s Court of Justice in Luxembourg.
A spokesman for DEFRA said after the judgement was made public: ‘This ruling shows our interpretation of the Waste Framework Directive is right.
‘It recognises that it is for local authorities to decide, within the law, whether separate recycling collections are necessary and practicable.
‘We will continue to work with local authorities, the waste industry and other partners to provide waste services that meet the needs of local communities and improve the quality of recycling.’
Chinese visa rules ‘are not working’
Ms Cooper, the Shadow Home Secretary, has strongly hinted that a future Labour government would reform the UK’s cumbersome visa system, which is costing the UK economy £1.2billion in lost tourist revenue.
Both the Conservatives and Labour are focusing heavily on immigration in the wake of their parties’ poor performance in the Eastleigh by-election, where Ukip proved a popular choice for disaffected voters.
Labour is attempting to shift its position on immigration, with the party admitting that it should have been more “ready to talk about the problems in the system”.
Ms Cooper will today promise to keep the Coalition’s cap on immigration and bring in tougher checks to stop bogus students coming to Britain for short courses.
However, Labour appears to be backing calls to relax Chinese visa rules in a bid to boost growth. The Daily Telegraph is campaigning to relax visa rules for Chinese visitors.
Currently, Chinese nationals wishing to visit Britain on holiday have to get their fingerprints taken at one of 12 authorities in China.
They also have to fill out a lengthy application form and pay more than if they were to visit the Schengen area of 26 European countries, including France and Italy.
Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme Ms Cooper called the current visa regime a “genuine problem” and said that relaxing the system would boost trade and investment.
“I think that is a genuine problem because you’ve got huge delays in getting visas for people who legally should be coming, who the Government agrees should be coming,” Ms Cooper said.
“It’s not just actually the tourist visas, you’ve also got business visas. The delays have doubled, for entrepreneurs the delays have tripled, so it is taking people much longer to get the basic visas that they need.
“So the system is really not working effectively enough. The reason you want people to come from China either as tourists or as university students is that [it] also is a way of building up those links with those countries that are going to be huge sources of trade and investment in the future.”
The UK is perceived as unwelcoming by many Chinese tourists and business leaders, which has made some investors reticent to engage with this country, experts have warned.
Last year, the Government announced some changes intended to simplify the rules, including that the visa application form would be translated into Chinese from April. But businesses warn the changes do not go far enough.
Labour let too many low-skilled migrants into Britain, admits Miliband as he promises to give local people ‘a fair crack of the whip’
Ed Miliband will admit today that Labour was wrong on immigration and let too many low-skilled migrants into Britain.
In a party political broadcast tonight, the Labour leader will say that communities struggled to keep up with the speed of new arrivals to Britain.
And he will concede that the scale of immigration meant workers’ wages have been undercut.
Mr Miliband will pledge to introduce a ‘One Nation immigration policy’ for the many and not the few.
But his party, which has consistently refused to support a cap on numbers, will again fail to spell out any firm policies to cut immigration.
In an astonishing about-face, Mr Miliband will say: ‘Low-skill migration has been too high and we need to bring it down.
‘That means the maximum transitional controls for new countries coming in from Eastern Europe, it means properly enforcing the minimum wage so people aren’t brought here to undercut workers already here, and it means proper training for people here so that they have a fighting chance of filling the vacancies that exist.
‘There’s nothing wrong in employing people from abroad but the rules need to be fair so that local people get a fair crack of the whip.’
In an attempt to distance himself from Labour’s ‘open-door’ immigration policy, which let hundreds of thousands of migrants from new EU countries come to Britain, he will add that it is ‘not prejudiced when people worry about immigration, it’s understandable’.
Mr Miliband will say that every foreigner who settles in Britain should learn English, and all public-sector workers who deal directly with the public must be able to speak English.
And he promise to step up enforcement of the minimum wage to ensure that migrant workers are not paid less to undercut Britons.
But a Tory source said: ‘Vague rhetoric about One Nation does nothing to explain how Labour would control the number of people coming into Britain.’
And UKIP leader Nigel Farage said: ‘What will you do Mr Miliband, about the relaxing of controls on Bulgarians and Romanians? Are you prepared to defy the EU treaties and take back our border controls? If not these comments are mere crocodile tears.’
Diane Abbott appeared to torpedo Mr Miliband’s change of tack, insisting Labour would not pander to ‘anti-immigrant’ feelings.
Writing in the New Statesman magazine, Labour’s public health spokesman wrote: ‘There is no path to victory for the Labour Party through the thickets of anti-immigrant politics.’
Mr Miliband will attempt to distance himself from Labour’s ‘open door’ immigration policy which led to hundreds of thousands of migrants from the new EU countries coming to Britain as the UK did not introduce transitional controls.
Nearly 600,000 European migrants came to the UK in 2010 alone, making Labour’s predictions of just 13,000 incomers from the new EU countries laughable.
Mr Miliband will say: ‘One of the things I’ve done since I became the leader of the Labour Party is understand where we got things wrong in government, and change them.
‘And one of the things we didn’t get right was immigration, and that’s why I’ve got a new approach. Millions of people in this country are concerned about immigration and if people are concerned about it, then the Labour Party I lead is going to be talking about it.’
He will add: ‘Britain’s diversity is a source of our great strength. It makes us a more successful country. ‘But people can lose out if migration isn’t properly managed. The pace of change can be too fast or people can see their wages undercut.’
The party political broadcast was filmed at Acton College in West London, where Mr Miliband’s late, Polish father the academic Ralph Miliband came to study English 70 years ago after fleeing the Nazis.
Yvette Cooper, the shadow home secretary, will make a speech on immigration tomorrow in which she will unveil plans to crackdown on unscrupulous employers who force migrants into overcrowded housing and pay them below the minimum wage.
She will also target ‘gangmasters’ employing illegal migrants in the social care, hospitality and construction industries – including a ban on housing workers in over-crowded accommodation.
Ms Cooper is also expected to detail proposed reforms of the immigration system and action to improve the training of UK workers so they can fill jobs in shortage occupations.
The news came as Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith said migrants could face a minimum period before they could claim tax credits and out-of-work benefits.
Sources said it could be introduced before the lifting of restrictions on Bulgarian and Romanian immigrants this year.
Let’s talk about the exodus of 600,000 whites from London
It is not wrong to discuss the cultural changes that large-scale immigration can cause, such as ‘white flight’ from certain areas in London
Imagine if Glasgow disappeared. Not overnight and not physically, but imagine if everyone who lived there decided to leave, in the space of 10 years. Argyle Street, in the city centre – empty. Byres Road, next to the university – derelict. The Crow Road – abandoned (except, perhaps – if this were an exciting new BBC drama – for an old Iain Banks novel, rain-damaged pages flapping in a gutter, symbol of the great evacuation). All those tenements, riverside apartments, suburban villas, all lying vacant. You’d sort of notice, wouldn’t you? You’d expect people to talk about it, at least.
If your geographic history differs from mine, and you’ve no mental image of Glasgow to play with, consider, instead, Sheffield, or Nottingham, or Belfast. All cities of about 600,000 people. Imagine if everyone who lived there upped and left.
Not the opening scenes of a dystopic science fiction screenplay, but the unfictional, real London, whose white British population has declined by roughly the population of those cities in the 10 years between the last two census surveys. “White British” (as opposed to Eastern European) citizens now make up less than half of London’s population. This is a change of profound significance, by any historical benchmark.
We have an ugly phrase to describe the phenomenon – I used it a fortnight ago, in a piece about the Tories’ attempts to woo votes from ethnic minorities (a term whose meaning has changed: in London, at least, we’re all “minorities” now). The departure of people from London’s hitherto majority grouping is called “white flight”.
It’s tempting to be caustic about the current, undoubtedly brief, spasm of media interest in the phenomenon. No one seemed to mind as inner London became more and more multicultural: that was what made it so “vibrant”, after all. Only as the profile of the suburbs changes (Enfield’s white population has dropped by nearly 25 percentage points in 10 years, for example) is it worth any serious attention: the BBC website carried a piece just this week.
To read the BBC article, by the home editor Mark Easton, there is nothing to worry about. Indeed, the historic shift of London, from a city of white Britons to a mixture of minorities, is a cause for celebration, and not just because of that oft‑lauded “vibrancy”.
That the proportion of white people in the borough of Barking and Dagenham has dropped from four fifths to less than a half in a decade is nothing more than the natural desire of increasingly prosperous people to retire to the seaside. I’m paraphrasing Mr Easton a little, but that was more or less the suggestion in his commentary. It’s a rising tide of prosperity that first of all flushed the Eastenders from Bethnal Green to Dagenham, and it’s the inexorable rise in property values that leads their descendants to move from metropolitan Essex to that beautiful county’s coastline.
“Leigh[-on-Sea],” said Mr Easton, “is a particular favourite.” After all: “Many residents from Barking and Dagenham will have taken the train along the Thames Estuary towards Southend on a work excursion – the old beano to the seaside.” And so everything is dandy?
Fundamentally, none of this is strictly about “race”, but rather the cultural constructs we layer on to genetics. There are good and bad neighbours of every hue, of course. But the scale of white flight demands more than issuing congratulations to the second and third generation children of immigrants, who’ve done well in life and moved from Zone 2 to Zone 5 of the Central or Northern Underground lines. It’s also absurd to assume that the grandchildren of cockneys are moving still further out, just because their houses have increased in value.
Take Bethnal Green. The people leaving Dagenham now are themselves displaced Eastenders. The borough they first left behind would be unrecognisable to their grandparents, with a mayor whose election was supported by an Islamist group with unpleasant (to put matters mildly) views.
Hate crimes disfigure its streets: in an ironic reversal of one reason for the East End’s fame – that it was where indigenous, working-class Londoners faced down home-grown fascists – the streets of Bethnal Green and Whitechapel are now scenes of increasingly violent attacks on gay people.
The BBC doesn’t talk about this, oddly, or wonder why the Eastenders’ movement is always away from their original homes: there are plenty of expensive properties in E2. (In 2001, I moved to Bow, from Harlow: my neighbours in Essex thought I was mad, for reasons unconnected with relative property prices.)
Discernment is required: nobody decent is arguing for a return to the homogeneity of Call the Midwife’s Poplar. Finally, politicians have admitted that to notice the scale of the immigration engineered by the last Labour government doesn’t make one racist.
But neither is it wrong to discuss the cultural changes that large-scale immigration can cause. Six hundred thousand Londoners have left. They didn’t all sell ex-council houses in Barking, in order to purchase five-bedroom cliff-top villas in sunny Leigh-on-Sea.
Social workers arrived at hospital to take woman’s baby while she was in LABOUR over concerns for its welfare
Bureaucratic evil abounds in Britain
A mother has told how social workers turned up while she was giving birth in hospital to say they would be taking her baby into care.
Without consulting her, social services chiefs had decided Kelly McWilliams was unfit to look after her baby because she had suffered from depression five years earlier after her ten-year-old son was found hanged.
The officials arrived without warning to say the baby would go straight into foster care as they were concerned about Mrs McWilliams’s mental health.
But the baby, a girl named Victoria, had serious breathing problems and was transferred to intensive care.
Mrs McWilliams, 36, said she was only allowed to spend two hours a day with her daughter, supervised by a social worker.
She was forced to call a lawyer from hospital and ended up in court two days after the birth to plead her case.
Victoria’s father, who lived apart from Mrs McWilliams, was given temporary custody of the baby when Victoria was discharged from hospital ten days after her birth, and for four months Mrs McWilliams was only allowed two hours of supervised time each day with her child.
Last night, the mother of five from Doncaster said: ‘I feel very, very angry and very, very let down because I had overcome my mental health problems and was in a very good place and I was feeling proud and ready to be a mother.
‘Then this came along and crushed me. I lost precious time with my daughter. I missed her first smile, I missed so much.’
The social workers were able to take Victoria into care after obtaining an emergency protection order from Doncaster Magistrates’ Court.
Mrs McWilliams said: ‘They literally just walked in very coldly and said as soon as I had delivered my baby she was going to get placed into foster care.
‘I was in labour when they came in. To be honest I didn’t actually believe them, at first I thought it was some kind of joke.’
When she asked why Victoria had to be fostered, she said they replied: ‘Because you are not well.’
According to Mrs McWilliams’s lawyer, Doncaster social services had gone too far when Victoria was born in August 2011, having failed to carry out a pre-birth assessment or case conference to discuss any possible intervention.
Solicitor Sarah Young said that if proper procedures had been followed, social services may not have needed to take action. Miss Young added: ‘I think it’s a shocking example of a massive over-reaction by social services in Doncaster.’
Victoria is now 18 months old and happily living with her mother. But Mrs McWilliams is demanding an apology from Doncaster social services, which she fears has not learned from its mistakes.
Her case follows a series of major failings by care bosses. In November, an Ofsted inspection found that children’s care in Doncaster was still ‘inadequate’.
The service had already been criticised over the deaths of seven children and failures that led to the torture of two boys by two brothers who were in foster care.
Mrs McWilliams said: ‘People need to know what Doncaster social services are like, because they make mistake after mistake but they are not paying for it. ‘To me, they have got more power than the police, they can do what they want when they want.
‘Nobody can make up for what they have taken away from me. They need to change the way they work. It can’t happen to anyone else. I was an experienced mum and yet I had to be supervised all the time I was caring for Victoria.
‘I am constantly terrified that there will be a knock on the door and that someone will come to take Victoria away from me.’
Chris Pratt, director of Doncaster’s Children and Young People’s Services, said: ‘It’s inappropriate for us to comment on cases involving individual children. However, when any matter of concern is raised with me I do ask for this to be examined and I have done that in this case.’