Emergency care in crisis admits NHS regulator
NHS emergency care is “out of control” across large swathes of the country, the chairman of the health and social care watchdog has warned.
Too many patients — especially the elderly — are arriving in hospital as an emergency, when they should have received help much earlier, said David Prior, head of the Care Quality Commission (CQC).
As a result, he added, the healthcare system is on the brink of collapse and regulators cannot promise to prevent further scandals like Mid-Staffordshire.
In his first major speech since being appointed to lead the regulator earlier this year, Mr Prior called for large-scale closures of hospital beds and investment in community care.
He said that almost half of hospitals are providing care which was either poor, or “not terribly” good. The CQC has identified 45 hospitals which have had problems which date back five years. And he criticised the decision to allow GPs to opt out of out-of-hours care, saying that they should be available to patients around the clock.
In a forthright speech to a conference held by health think tank the King’s Fund, Mr Prior said: “If we don’t start closing acute beds, the system is going to fall over.
“Emergency admissions through Accident & Emergency (A&E) are out of control in large parts of the country … That is totally unsustainable.”
The former Conservative MP, who took up the leadership of the health and social care regulator in January, said there was no real market in health care, leaving many patients at the mercy of their local hospital, regardless of its quality.
“The patient or resident is the weakest voice in the system,” he said. “It is a classic market failure —the user doesn’t know nearly as much as the professionals, even with the Internet.”
“We can talk about competition until the cows come home but if you live in Norwich there is one hospital,” said the former chairman of Norfolk and Norwich University Hospitals foundation trust.
Mr Prior said the regulator existed because the market could not be left to its own devices, as communities relied on their local hospitals.
“There is the nature of health care — people die. If you buy a fridge and it doesn’t work, you can buy a new fridge. If health care goes wrong you can die.”
He made the comments as new research revealed that almost one in 10 patients suffers harm in NHS hospitals and care homes.
The data from the NHS Information Centre examined safety incidents in the last month, and found eight per cent of patients had been harmed during their care — suggesting that every year more than one million patients and care home residents suffer avoidable harm.
Bedsores were the most common result of neglect, with 5.6 per cent of patients suffering from such pressure ulcers, which can be fatal. The other main causes of harm were falls, urinary tract infections linked with catheter use and blood clots.
Mr Prior, who was brought in to lead CQC after it was criticised for repeated failures to protect vulnerable patients, said the organisation would now play “a huge role” in debates about hospital closures and decisions to reshape services and move more care into the community. Many frail elderly people who ended up in hospital should not be there, he said.
The regulator has embarked on a new strategy with bigger teams of experts to carry out in-depth inspections.
Mr Prior said its assessment of NHS services suggested that close to half of hospitals are now providing care which was either poor, or “not terribly” good.
Mr Prior said CQC had identified about 45 hospitals which have had serious problems dating back around five years and that in future regulators will take a “much clearer” approach in advising which hospitals should not be allowed to continue as they are.
“We will be outside the system and the politics – we will have a huge role in the reconfiguration debate because we are independent,” he said.
The 45 hospitals which will now be a priority for inspection make up about 20 per cent of those in England, he said, while describing a further 20 percent as “coasting along … not doing terribly well.”
The CQC chairman said he did not believe the regulator could promise to prevent future scandals.
“We cannot give the public a cast-iron guarantee that there will never be another Mid Staffs or another Maidstone & Tunbridge Wells [where hundreds died after an outbreak of Clostridium difficile]” he said.
Mr Prior said the decision by the previous Government to allow family doctors to give up responsibility for out-of-hours care had let patients down.
“I think primary care is in bad shape,” he said. “I think GPs ought to be responsible 24/7 – they should never have opted out from out of hours care.
His comments reflect increasing alarm about the risks being posed to patients amid a massive rise in demand for A&E services, which are struggling to cope, and about the quality of care given to elderly people in hospital.
Mr Prior told the conference in London that he believed that a “financial crisis” across the NHS and social care would drive services to integrate, and to invest in community care, because there was a perception doing so would save money, though there was little evidence such services are cheaper.
Last weekend it emerged that at least 22 serious incidents – including three deaths – are under investigation since the disastrous rollout of the 111 non-emergency phone line, which was intended to relieve pressure on A&E departments and improve out-of-hours care.
Norman Lamb, care minister, said the pressures on hospitals had been created because patients had lost confidence in the care which is provided when their GP surgery was closed.
“We have out-of-hours care that too often falls down. People end up with the default option of A&E because there is nothing else that they are confident in,” he told the same conference.
Next week the minister will announce pilots for “integrated care systems” where groups of local NHS organisations and councils devise their own payment systems to stop elderly people being stuck in hospital amid warring between the NHS and social services over who foots the bill.
Mr Lamb said: “We have institutionalised fragmentation of care over the years. Where does the poor patient fit into this, how do they make sense of it? We need a system that promotes integration not crushes it.”
Other speakers said that making further cuts to the number of hospital beds in England could mean yet more patients were left to suffer.
Professor David Oliver, former national clinical director for older people said that the loss of more hospital beds would mean more elderly people would be left being treated in corridors and “on any flat surface available.”
The visiting fellow at the King’s Fund said the UK had lost one third of its acute hospital beds in the last two decades, leaving services with fewer beds per head of population than any comparable country.
He said hospital A&E departments were under “inexorable” pressure because GP surgeries did not provide enough care for older people, often missing conditions like osteoporosis and arthritis, and that the number of beds for patients rehabilitating from hospital care should be doubled.
“How do you take capacity out of acute [hospital] provision when people are still piling through the doors in record numbers and hospitals are so pressurised?” he asked. “What happens – if you take the capacity out – is that people end up being treated on any flat surface and in the hospital corridors.”
Mother left with SEVEN-INCH forceps inside her body for three months in shocking toll of 750 NHS blunders
Never, never errors can onmly be gross negligence
A former nurse left with forceps inside her for three months after a routine operation was one of hundreds of patients who suffered because of preventable mistakes made by the NHS in recent years.
Mother of four Donna Bowett, 42, went to Alexandra Hospital in Worcestershire in February 2009 to undergo keyhole surgery to remove her gallbladder, but suffered ‘excruciating’ pain afterwards, not knowing doctors left a seven inch instrument behind.
Hundreds of patients have serious long-term problems and some died after surgeons operated on the wrong organ or left surgical devices inside them.
During the past four years there have been 762 so-called ‘never events’ at NHS hospitals – blunders deemed so serious they should never happen.
They include 322 cases of medical instruments being left in the body and 214 operations on the wrong limb or organ. In another 73 incidents, feeding tubes or medication lines were fed into the lungs instead of the stomach and in 58 cases patients were fitted with the wrong implant or prosthetic limb.
However, medical negligence experts say these figures are an underestimate because thousands of other incidents are never reported.
Some patients say the mistakes have left them partially disabled or in severe pain. One woman died after medical staff put a feeding tube in her lungs during treatment for a stroke.
Her daughter, who wished to remain anonymous, said: ‘You feel guilty because she kept saying she wanted to come out, and we kept saying, “You can’t until you get better”. ‘You feel angry, because you think someone’s killed your mum.’
Mother-of-four Donna Bowett told how surgeons left the forceps inside her. Mrs Bowett, a nurse, was discharged from the Alexandra Hospital in Redditch, Worcestershire, in 2009.
The 42-year-old said that four years later, she was still unable to go for long walks with her dog or play badminton or tennis as it was so painful.
She added: ‘The pain was just horrendous and I didn’t know why. I see the X-ray and I think “oh my god”. ‘Being in the medical profession I just couldn’t understand how a mistake like that could happen.’
The figures were uncovered by BBC Radio 4’s World At One in a freedom of information request.
But Ian Cohen, from Goodmans Law legal practice in Liverpool, said there were bound to be more cases because the NHS only logs 25 types of errors. Hundreds of thousands of other blunders which fall outside these categories happen each year but are never reported.
He also argued that hospitals have no incentive to report never events because they may have to reimburse the cost of the procedure to the NHS as well as paying for the patients’ long-term care. He added: ‘The figures really are the tip of the iceberg.’
Dr Mike Durkin, director of patient safety for NHS England – the new body running the Health Service – said never events should not be allowed to happen at all, adding: ‘One is too many in any week, in any day, in any hospital.’
Axing grammar schools has reduced social mobility in Britain, says Eton headmaster
The headmaster of Eton College claims the demise of grammar schools has reduced social mobility in Britain.
Tony Little took over at the helm of the £32,000-a-year boarding school, attended by 20 former Prime Ministers and most male members of the Royal family, seven years ago.
The son of a security guard and a secretary, Mr Little attended Eton College himself on a music scholarship and was ‘the first male in my family to be educated over the age of 14.’
But asked whether social mobility is ‘flat-lining’ or even reversing, as former minister Alan Milburn warned at the launch of a government report on the subject last year, he said: ‘That is possible’.
In an interview with the New Statesman magazine, he said he was ‘personally not a fan’ of the 11-plus examination which was which widespread until grammar schools were largely abolished in the 1970s.
But Mr Little, 59, who used to teach at a grammar school that is now a fee-paying school in Brentwood in Essex before moving to Eton, added: ‘But there is no doubt that the demise of the grammar schools has brought a reduction in social mobility.’
Until the 1960s there were some 1,200 grammar schools in the UK, but most were axed in the 1970s and their number is now capped by law at 164. They educate some 160,000 pupils.
They routinely top the GCSE and A-level league tables, and in recent years they have produced more than half the total number of A grade A-levels in difficult subjects such as maths and physics.
On the dominance of Eton-educated men in the government including David Cameron, Boris Johnson, and several of the Prime Minister’s closest advisors, he said: ‘I think this is one of those moments in history that won’t be repeated’.
He said he was pleased the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby and actors such as Homeland’s Damian Lewis and Dominic West ‘who have a rather different take on the world’ were also alumni.
‘That reflects the Eton I live in’, he said. ‘The exciting thing about being in a place like this is having bright, young, aspirational people who see the world in very different ways.
‘I came from a background that was so alien to any kind of educational experience. My father was a security guy at Heathrow and my mother was a secretary at the local hospital.
‘I came in on a scholarship. Not to be romantic about it, but that is a reason why I do the job: I feel an obligation to pay back.’
Mr Little said when his aunt, from Newcastle, was told he had been offered a place at Cambridge University, ‘she had heard of Eton, Oxford and all these places, but only by name, so when she heard I was going to Cambridge she assumed I had messed up so badly at Eton I had to be sent to one of the others.’
He cautiously welcomed the government’s education reforms which will create a wave of new free schools and academies. But Mr Little said there was a ‘huge amount of reform, maybe too much’, going on, but ‘no joined up plan. He said: ‘I think most of the people I work with can’t see the big picture we are aiming for.’
Eton College takes 250 boys a year but he said a third of those who finished in the top 100 in the entrance examination were not offered places because they needed to show they could ‘thrive in a boarding school environment.’
He said: ‘We are not just about academic results, and boys need something else they can bring to the party. I don’t really mind what it is – playing the clarinet, football, jiu-jitsu, something that excites and enthuses the boy. From all my experience, if you have that, it translates into other areas and you create a kind of language that is positive.’
Eton itself is sponsoring a free school – Holyport College – which will open next September, a non-selective boarding school seven miles from Eton in Berkshire, where many of the pupils aged 11 to 18 will come from local authority care or at risk groups.
Scrap GCSE grades, say British exam boards: Call for more precise points system because current marks conceal pupils’ precise level of achievement
GCSE grades should be scrapped and replaced with points scores, according to the influential organisation that operates Cambridge University’s three exam boards.
The current system needs to be replaced because it creates ‘arbitrary’ categories that conceal the true level of a pupil’s achievement, said Cambridge Assessment.
Candidates can have quite different marks but end up with the same grade, while others with similar marks are awarded different grades.
Schools also end up focusing on the grade C boundary to improve their standing in league tables.
Cambridge Assessment, a research arm of the university which operates OCR, Cambridge
International Examinations and Cambridge English Language Assessment, said the system should be based on a numerical scale.
It ruled out using a ‘narrow’ system based on a percentage in favour of a more accurate scale which ‘could range from 600 to 900 points’.
‘Grades are arbitrary categories imposed on an underlying continuum of achievement,’ said Tim Oates, director of assessment research and development.
‘Scale scores… could reduce some of the undesirable effects in schools of extra effort being concentrated on pupils around the grade C boundary. This would lead to better teaching and learning.’
The Campaign for Real Education welcomed the proposal yesterday but had reservations about an ‘over-complex’ system that parents and employers would struggle to understand.
Chairman Chris McGovern said: ‘Their instincts are correct but we need a simple score like a percentage that is precise but simple enough for everyone to understand.’
However, education expert Professor Alan Smithers, from the University of Buckingham, warned exact scores were meaningless as exams are not a precise form of measuring academic ability.
He added: ‘The other reason [to keep grades] is everybody is used to As, Bs and Cs, so there is no real point in changing the currency unless there is a compelling reason to do so.’
The Cambridge Assessment proposal involves adding up marks from each paper in a GCSE subject and converting them into a points score.
To understand the final score, examples could be provided of the types of questions pupils are able to answer, based on their performance.
Alternatively, the scores could be compared to the grade system it had replaced, the report said.
But Mr McGovern said: ‘If you try linking it with the previous exam you muddy the waters.
‘We need a clean break from the current GCSEs which are discredited because of grade inflation.’ A spokesman for exam regulator Ofqual said: ‘We will be consulting soon on proposals for the regulatory arrangements for the new GCSEs and this will include considerations of how they should be graded.
‘We welcome all contributions to the debates of these important aspects of the qualifications.’
A spokesman for the AQA exam board said: ‘This is an important debate.
At a time of major changes to qualifications it is right that we consider how best to present the results of students’ hard work so that they can be understood and used in the wider world.’
Student with just weeks to live is saved by new Hodgkin’s lymphoma drug after worldwide search failed to find bone marrow donor match
This looks like very good news
A young man’s life has been saved by a new drug after he was struck down by the blood cancer Hodgkin’s lymphoma for the second time.
Student Martin Solomon, 20, desperately needed a life-saving bone marrow transplant and was told he had just weeks to live unless a donor was found.
His heartbroken family searched the world for a match without success because of his mixed Irish and Afro-Caribbean heritage.
Manchester United footballer Rio Ferdinand even asked his Twitter followers to join the bone marrow donor register to see if they could save his life.
Time was running out for the Manchester University student and a donor had not been found so he was approved for a new treatment which has only recently become available in the UK.
He has amazed doctors at Manchester’s Christie Hospital by beating the disease in just a few months thanks to the Brentuximab Vedotin.
It meant Mr Solomon’s own white blood cells – which were harvested then put back in his body – were able to beat the cancer.
Martin is now in remission, and doctors have told him that he could be well enough to return to university in September.
His family, from Sale Moor, Manchester, started the Match4Martin campaign last year, when it was believed a bone marrow transplant was his only chance of survival.
His parents have vowed to continue the campaign to find a donor just in case Martin’s cancer ever returns.
His mother, Paula, said: ‘Compared to how things were at the end of last year, we have gone from the depths of despair to complete euphoria that Martin is still with us. We just thank God for cancer research and drug trials.’
Mr Solomon said: ‘I can’t wait to get back to normal – I’m just so relieved.
‘We’ll continue searching for a bone marrow donor for me but I am hoping to go to Croatia for a holiday with all my friends this summer and I’d like to go back to university as well.’
His father, Martin Senior, added: ‘We’ll be taking each day as it comes but plan to throw him a massive barbecue party for his 21st in July.’
Stephen Cannon, honorary consultant at the Royal Orthopaedic Hospital and specialist in orthopaedic oncology, said it is too early to call the new medication a ‘wonder drug’, but that results are promising.
He said: ‘It’s early days – the drug has only been about for a year and a half – and I don’t have any personal experience of it.
‘But results have been positive. More research needs to be done to check that there aren’t any serious side-effects, but so far it looks promising.’
The foreign rioters Britain cannot deport because of their ‘right to family life’
Two foreign criminals jailed for their part in English riots have been allowed to stay in this country because of their “right to family life” under the Human Rights Act.
The Telegraph can reveal for the first time how the two rioters – who were both made an example of by the criminal courts for their roles in the 2011 disorder – have since overturned the Home Office’s attempts to have them sent home.
One was convicted of violent disorder after rampages involving attacks on shops and cars by a gang in two Home Counties towns, while the other was convicted of burglary for his part in the London riots.
The successful appeals by the rioters – under the “right to family life” – demonstrate how the immigration courts’ leniency sharply contradicts the determination of politicians and the criminal justice system to have exemplary action taken against those who caused £200 million damage in an orgy of violence.
Two senior immigration judges, Henry Latter and Andrew Grubb, even granted anonymity to one rioter in his immigration case even though the criminal courts had allowed him to be named.
Concern over the apparent abuse of human rights legislation has now prompted Theresa May, the Home Secretary, to draw up new laws to stop foreign criminals avoiding deportation. The measures will be in a new Immigration Bill which will be announced in this week’s Queen’s Speech.
The move is a victory for our End the Human Rights Farce campaign. The Bill will aim to tackle head on the abuse of Article Eight of the Human Rights Act, which guarantees a right to “family life”, but which has been used by criminals to beat rules which automatically deport any offender sentenced to more than 12 months in prison.
Under rules introduced last July by Theresa May, the Home Secretary, they should only be able to use Article Eight in “exceptional circumstances” – a move backed unanimously by the House of Commons, but these have been largely ignored by judges. Ministers believe that they will be unable to ignore the new legislation.
Last night Mark Harper, the immigration minister, spelled out the Home Office’s deep concern at the judgments.
“Any foreign national who abuses the privilege of coming to the UK by committing a serious offence should face the consequences,” he said.
“Many of those convicted of involvement in the 2011 summer’s riots are still behind bars – that’s where they belong. We are pursuing deportation in scores of cases and wherever possible we will remove them from the UK – regardless of whether they have family here.”
The cases of the rioters illustrate the depth of Home Office frustration. One rioter, a Zimbabwean who terrified passers-by as he rampaged through two Buckinghamshire towns in a gang of 30 to 50 youths, can only be identified as “TS”.
He left a woman bus driver “frightened for her life” after being part of an attack on her vehicle, which was kicked and hit as she attempted to get away. He was convicted of violent disorder and sentenced to 15 months in prison.
The second rioter, Ubong-Luke Nkanta, a Nigerian from Thamesmead, south-east London, was jailed for 18 months for burglary during the London riots.
Each succeeded in arguing that their family life in Britain gave them a “human right” to avoid deportation, which had been demanded by Mrs May for all foreign-born rioters.
Writing for The Telegraph today Dominic Raab, the Conservative MP who has campaigned for a change in the law, said: “These cases warp the moral balance of British justice, endanger the public and make human rights sound like dirty words to many people.”
It was “disturbing” the courts had agreed to grant anonymity to TS, he added, because the decision appeared to “cosset” violent criminals.
TS was hunted by police for his role in a 90-minute rampage through Bletchley and Milton Keynes in “copycat” riots on August 9, 2011, three days after the first night of disorder took place in Tottenham, north London.
The gang, later described in court as a “mindless mob”, destroyed dozens of shopfronts including a charity hospice shop, and the owners of the Golden Palace Chinese takeaway in Bletchley were punched and robbed of their takings.
TS was identified as one of the main criminals involved in an attack on a bus, which was kicked and pelted with objects while the terrified female driver tried to escape. She was described as “distressed and frightened for her life”. He was also one of four rioters identified in an attack on a shop where £4,000 of damage was caused.
An innocent motorist also had her vehicle kicked and hit as she tried to drive through the crowd. The rioters, many wearing hoods and scarves, were tracked down from CCTV images.
TS, who had already been cautioned for carrying an offensive weapon in 2007 when he was 17, pleaded guilty at Aylesbury Crown Court to violent disorder and was jailed for 15 months.
One of TS’s co-accused Lewis Nicholls, then 15, attended one court hearing in his school uniform. The judge lifted reporting restrictions which normally prevent juveniles from being named so three of the gang, including Nicholls, could be named and shamed, in an indication of how seriously criminal courts viewed the offences.
Despite this, TS has since been granted anonymity by the immigration judges even though he was already an adult at the time. They did not explain in their judgment why they had done this.
TS brought an appeal after the Home Office began deportation proceedings and was allowed to stay in Britain on two grounds, that he has been with a girlfriend for three years, although they have never lived together, and he came here as a child.
The Home Office appealed to the Upper Tribunal, saying the new tougher rules had not been taken into account, but judges upheld the earlier decision. They did, however, say: “Another tribunal might well have come to a different view.”
Vincent Kong, who manages the Chinese takeaway targeted by TS’s gang, said: “If you come to this country you should behave. It’s not right to come and cause trouble. If you do that, you should leave the country.”
Ebenezer Markose, 23, from India, who works at Sai Supermarket in Bletchley which was also targeted by TS’s gang, said: “He should be punished and he should be deported.”
TS’s 47-year-old father, who also cannot be named because of the anonymity order, said: “I don’t want to say anything about it. As his parent I will say he shouldn’t say anything.”
In the second case Nkanta, 25, was jailed for 18 months in November 2011 for committing a burglary during the London riots.
He entered a building while looting was taking place but did not steal anything, he told the court, because “there was nothing left to take”.
As he was approaching his release from prison last summer, the Home Office began deportation proceedings and Nkanta appealed, claiming he should stay in Britain under his “right to family life”.
He said his relationship with two biological children – by two mothers – as well as his new partner’s children meant he should not be deported.
The court ruling said: “It was submitted [by the Home Office] that this appellant has had plenty of opportunities to provide evidence of his relationship with his child with his current partner.”
The Home Office claimed he had failed to prove his family life and submitted to the court that “most of his partner’s children do not live with his partner”.
However, the lower immigration tribunal found Nkanta had proved his family circumstances and his relationship with the children, and that his human rights would be breached if he was deported.
The Home Office appealed, claiming the lower court had failed to take proper account of Mrs May’s new immigration rules, and questioned whether Nkanta had been entitled to claim “family life”.
The Home Office claimed in court: “This is not a family whose family members all live together. Most of the children do not live with their mother.”
However, Upper Tribunal Judge Isabel Murray upheld the original decision and allowed his appeal under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights which is enshrined in British law by Labour’s Human Rights Act.
Last week The Telegraph disclosed how drug dealer Hesham Mohammed Ali was able to claim family life despite abandoning two children, after arguing he coudl not be sent back to Iraq because of his tattoos.
We fought for equality. So why do greedy British wives still sponge off their ex-husbands?
The other day, a relatively new man friend drove me past a splendid detached house in a rich suburb of London, where prices are at least £1.5 million. ‘What do you think of it?’ he asked. ‘Nice,’ I said. ‘Are you thinking of buying it?’
‘I wish I could,’ he said. ‘It used to belong to me, but it’s now my ex-wife’s. She got it on our divorce.’
He had been banished to a dingy rented flat, he told me. This was all he could afford, as he was also paying out £800-a-month maintenance, as well as their children’s school fees.
Welcome to divorce, 2013 style.
Far from being an unlucky, isolated example, my friend is one of the growing number of men who find themselves losing everything through divorce.
Meanwhile, women, ever more, seem to be living by the principle of ‘don’t get mad, get everything’.
And often, they go on getting everything for years, long after time has been called on their marriage.
In these days of equal education, opportunities and access to professions, women are still humiliating themselves by expecting (and receiving) huge and continuing settlements when a marriage ends.
I consider myself a feminist, but I don’t see why today’s divorcing women should expect any kind of settlement at all.
What on earth is wrong with earning your own living and standing on your own two feet? If modern marriage is an equal partnership, divorce should be the same, surely, with both parties getting out what they have put in, as when any other type of contract ends.
Yet modern women are still positioning themselves as the weaker vessel having to be kept by a big strong man, whether married or divorced. We have fought for equality, and many battles have been won, but divorcing women are still making out they are pathetic little Fifties housewives unable to fend for themselves, before ruthlessly fleecing the men they once professed to love.
They should be utterly ashamed.
Depressingly, this year’s Rich List, for the first time, included a separate list for divorced women whose only source of vast wealth was that provided by their ex-husbands. The compilers of the list said that if you are an attractive woman, possibly your best guarantee of a huge income is to marry a super-rich man and then divorce him a few years later.
Slavica Ecclestone walked away with around £750 million after her divorce from Bernie, following a 23-year marriage and two daughters; Irina Malandina was awarded £155 million after 16 years of marriage to Russian Roman Abramovich and five children; and Diana Jenkins, former wife of Barclays tax expert Roger Jenkins, banked a handy £150 million at the dissolution of their ten-year marriage.
If you want to do the same, push out a kid if at all possible. Based on the Heather Mills principle, this will mean you can command an even better settlement. The presence of a child will ensure generous maintenance payments for years, maybe decades, to come.
I can’t help suspecting that many of these women who got themselves on the ex-wives list were never passionately in love with their high-earning husbands. To a greater or lesser extent, their marriages will probably have been soul-less arrangements from the outset.
It’s easy for an attractive woman to use her charm and wiles to entrap a rich man, all the time calculating the cash they receive when they can call time on the marriage.
So why can’t they put such time and forethought into developing careers and financial independence rather than sponging off someone else?
It’s significant that, so far, there is no Rich List for the ex-husbands of wealthy women. And of course, not every wife who endures the pain of divorce will end up quids in.
According to a new report, if you are a woman intent on a lucrative split, you should make sure you live in a city, as then you are more likely to be awarded continuing maintenance on top of the lion’s share of the marital assets.
A survey of over 700 divorce cases found that metropolitan courts almost always award a better deal to ex-wives than provincial courts.
The report added that spouses who live in the country will most likely have to make do with a clean-break settlement, as they are expected to stand on their own two feet after divorce.
It’s not even necessary to set your cap at a vastly rich husband to do well out of divorce.
Divorce courts always consider the income or property the higher earner is likely to have in future. When a wealthy person divorces, it is often considered that the former spouse made him what he was — or played a major part.
Women who are married to ordinary earners can be set up for years with the house, car, custody of children and a regular lump sum in their accounts.
Some divorcees are reluctant to remarry, in case they kill the goose that lays the golden egg — maintenance usually stops when you have another husband to support you — so they content themselves with boyfriends, lovers and, as they get older, the mandatory toyboy.
The cruellest trick of all? Even years after divorce, an ex-wife can come back and demand more on the basis that she made a significant contribution to her husband’s wealth, or that she supported him with her own earnings.
Since 2000, ex-wives have been able to go back to the courts to demand a slice of their former husband’s pension. Pensions were brought into the divorce arena 13 years ago on the grounds that most pensions are in the husband’s name, and the marriage was ongoing as the pension fund accrued.
Michael Douglas’s first wife, Diandra Lukar, has just re-opened their case and is demanding a share of her former husband’s future earnings, 13 years after they divorced. This was after losing her case in 2010 for a share of Money Never Sleeps, as Douglas argued this film was made after their divorce.
But she is still entitled to a share of earnings from films made during their marriage. This can also happen in the UK if the wife has no reasonable expectations of being a high earner in her own right. Karen Parlour, who divorced her England and Arsenal football star husband Ray in 2002, won the legal right to a one-third share of his future earnings in 2004 in a landmark case at the Court of Appeal. It set a precedent for former wives to bag themselves the share they would enjoy if they were still married.
When a wife has been brutally dumped, perhaps there’s more grounds for sympathy. But these days, an estimated 70 per cent of divorces are brought by women. What are these women being paid for, when no longer married?
In my circle of friends alone, I know of countless men who have fallen foul of greedy ex-wives who seem determined to see the men they married reduced to penury. It’s easy for an attractive woman to use her charm and wiles to entrap a rich man, all the time calculating the cash they receive when they can call time on the marriage.
One friend had been married for about 20 years when his wife decided she wanted a divorce. There were no particular grounds, and no one else was involved. Each sought out a lawyer, and the wife was awarded 85 per cent of the joint assets.
There were no children and she had never worked. After the divorce, she moved into a small cottage with enough money to see her out. He had just enough money to buy a small flat, and had to start all over again. He got virtually none of the marital assets accumulated over the years, including a house worth £800,000.
My friend Alex Williams, the artist, came out of his first marriage of over 26 years at the age of 50 with, quite literally, nothing — not even a roof over his head. His solicitor felt that was the best she could do for him, and he was lucky not to have to pay maintenance too.
His children were then in their mid-20s, and his ex-wife continued to live in what had been the marital home — the home Alex had spent years renovating from a ruin.
Again, it was his then-wife who had called time on the marriage.
A few years after my own divorce, I updated a lawyer friend on my situation, telling him my ex was now living as a monk in a retreat centre and had taken vows of poverty, chastity and obedience. My friend’s first question was: ‘Does he pay your maintenance?’
‘Maintenance?’ I asked in surprise. When we divorced, no lawyers were involved, and we did a 50/50 split with no further financial obligations on either side. It was a fair division and reflected what each had put into the relationship.
I could never have demeaned myself by accepting maintenance, and allowing myself to be a kept woman for years after divorce.
I know there are many cases where men have been the villains, having secret mistresses or have gambled or drunk away family funds. Rightly, they should pay for their misdeeds.
But in 2013, women who demand everything on divorce, and expect maintenance forever after, should hang their heads in shame. We must show everybody that we are not simpering victims, but proud, strong and, above all, financially independent.
Naive British lawyer puts her feet into the fire
If you don’t like Jews you should be free to say so — but there is no free speech in Britain. So a woman who assumed there was got into big trouble.
If you disguise your prejudice as anti-Zionism or hatred of Israel that is OK though. Such really dangerous and organized prejudice — mainly emanating from the Left — is permitted. But the careless overgeneralizations of an irritated individual are cracked down on
A female lawyer who blurted out: ‘I cannot stand Jewish people’ during an office rant has been left with a huge legal bill after a discrimination case was brought against her by a former colleague.
Danielle Morris, 34, was subject of a three-and-a-half year investigation in front of two legal tribunals and almost lost her career after she made the remark during an office conversation.
The mother-of-two complained a Jewish man had jumped the queue at a medical centre while she was waiting to take one of her children to see a doctor.
Later she relayed the incident in the presence of a Jewish cashier at her law practice in Rossendale, Lancashire.
After making her comment, the unnamed cashier said: ‘Please do not say that’ but Mrs Morris added: ‘I don’t care, I cannot stand them.’
Three months after the incident in December 2009, the cashier left the law firm – then brought a racial and religious claim against Mrs Morris and the practice and won an undisclosed sum in damages.
Mrs Morris herself was then hauled before the Solicitor’s Regulation Authority after a further complaint of discrimination by the cashier.
It emerged the matter ‘snowballed’ despite the lawyer trying to apologise on three occasions – but the cashier refused to meet with her.
Yesterday, in a ruling made public for the first time, it emerged Mrs Morris who now works two days a week at another law firm has been fined £2,500 and ordered to pay £5,250 in costs following a hearing in London.
Her own legal costs are thought to be £1,000 and the incident is believed to have cost in total tens of thousands of pounds in further solicitors’ costs and compensation.
Trouble began after she attended the Bardoc medical centre in Bury with her baby. The hearing was told a man dressed in Orthodox Jewish attire ’caused a scene’ at the surgery and as a result was seen first by a doctor.
Back at the law firm Mrs Morris relayed the incident to a receptionist she shared her office with and said: ‘I cannot stand Jewish people.’
The cashier who also shared the office having joined the firm just three months earlier overheard the rant and said: ‘Please do not say that.’
But Mrs Morris went on: ‘I don’t care, I cannot stand them ever since an incident at Bardoc.’