Shocking proof A&E closures cost lives: Death rate jumps more than a THIRD after department closes
The Mail on Sunday today reveals the first shocking evidence that hospital casualty department closures are costing hundreds of lives.
Official figures uncovered by this newspaper show a 37 per cent rise in death rates for emergency patients from Newark in Nottinghamshire, where the Accident and Emergency unit closed two years ago.
The figures, obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, come from the NHS trusts where Newark patients are now sent. They amount to the first authoritative study on what can happen when an A&E shuts.
Data: The Mail on Sunday obtained statistics on death rates from NHS Trusts. They show:
* Of 5,441 Newark patients admitted for emergency treatment last year, 264 died – 4.85 per cent. Yet in 2009, when there were 5,431 emergency cases, just 192 patients died – 3.53 per cent.
That was the year before NHS chiefs decided to close Newark A&E, promising ‘more lives being saved’. If the percentage rate had stayed the same after the closure, that would have meant 72 fewer deaths last year – in just one area, and in just one year.
* When Newark had its own A&E its death rate was lower than in nearby areas – despite the fact that the town has a higher than average elderly population. Now the Newark rate is higher.
* Like other hospitals where A&Es close, Newark General now has only a so-called urgent care and minor injuries unit – banned from treating life-threatening conditions.
Having initially refused to investigate the MoS findings, health chiefs had a change of heart last night and, at 8pm, pledged to examine our evidence.
A spokesman for Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt said: ‘We always take changes in mortality data seriously and will look into the case in Newark in more detail.’
The U-turn came after doctors’ leaders said the data suggested the policy of axeing A&E units was placing lives in jeopardy. They called on Mr Hunt to order an immediate moratorium on further closures until more is known about their likely effects.
Their call was echoed by Tory MP Andrew Percy, a leading member of the Commons health committee. Mr Percy said: ‘These shocking figures confirm what many local people already suspected. Shutting local A&E centres does not improve patients’ survival changes, it dramatically worsens them. ‘There should be no more such closures until we have a thorough review of this policy.’
Mr Percy said the closure policy was begun under Labour and ‘regrettably’ not reversed by the Coalition.
Even a former Coalition Health Minister said the closure programme should now be reviewed. Liberal Democrat MP Paul Burstow, the former Care Services Minister, said: ‘I find these figures on death rates very worrying. ‘I do have misgivings … it is now time to review the whole approach.’
Chairman of the Royal College of General Practitioners Dr Clare Gerada said yesterday: ‘The Newark data revealed by The Mail on Sunday points to a close association between A&E closures and mortality. It is clear the provision of emergency care is in crisis across the whole of the NHS.
‘Before any further closures are contemplated, there must be a full, independent assessment of their impact on patients and on the system as a whole.’
One consultant from North-West London, where five out of nine A&Es are set to be closed, said: ‘Newark tells us what happens when you close an A&E. As a frontline hospital consultant, these excess deaths are no surprise to me, and they clearly demonstrate the risk.’
The figures – which detail the number of patients who die within 30 days of admission to an A&E unit – have come to light in a week when Ministers have finally admitted that emergency provision nationally is in deep crisis. There has been a doubling of the number of patients forced to wait more than four hours for treatment over the past 12 months.
David Prior, head of NHS watchdog the Care Quality Commission, has said the entire health system is ‘at the brink of collapse’ because of the pressure on A&E.
Yet in the face of this crisis, health chiefs are pressing ahead with an unprecedented programme of A&E closures and downgrades.
As this newspaper and its readers have been saying for the past 11 months, this is soon set to affect no fewer than 34 hospitals.
One of the most shocking aspects of the cuts is that there has never been any independent academic study of their potential impact.
This means the arguments made by supporters of the closures – that most patients will be better served by travelling to ‘superhospitals’, even if they face longer journeys – have to be taken largely on trust.
There is evidence that some patients, such as stroke victims, are more likely to survive if taken immediately to major centres where they can receive specialist treatment, rather than an ordinary A&E. Indeed in Newark stroke death rates have declined slightly.
But other research, led by Professor Jon Nicholl of Sheffield University, has found that overall, mortality will increase with longer ambulance journeys.
Further FOI data shows the average time between a 999 call in Newark and transfer to A&E at King’s Mill Hospital, near Mansfield, or Lincoln Hospital is almost two hours. In ten per cent of cases it is nearly three hours.
These hospitals, where most Newark emergency cases now end up, are both more than 20 miles away, along roads which can be difficult even for an ambulance with a blue light.
Professor Nicholl said: ‘The research indicates there is a relationship between the distance to hospital and mortality.’
Dr Clive Peedell, a consultant oncologist who is also co-leader of campaign group the National Health Action Party and chairman of the NHS Consultants’ Association, said it was now evident that pressing ahead with further closures would be ‘disastrous’.
He said: ‘There is no evidence base to justify what they are doing. In A&E trauma cases, doctors talk of the “golden hour” for treatment when patients’ chances are maximised. If it’s taking nearly two hours to reach hospital, mortality is bound to increase.’
In the case of Newark, The Mail on Sunday can reveal that David Bowles, the former chairman of the trust which runs Grantham and Lincoln hospitals, warned senior NHS management that increasing the burden on services there would have disastrous consequences.
He said that when closing Newark’s A&E was first mooted in 2009, he had warned the now-disbanded East Midlands Strategic Health Authority (SHA), the body which pushed through the closure, that Lincoln Hospital was already ‘close to a tipping point’ because its patient load was so great.
‘There were no vacant beds at all, and yet the SHA was saying we had to admit more patients,’ he said. In such circumstances, it was likely that patients would be sent to the wrong ward, and the control of ‘superbug’ infections would suffer, along with patient care in general.
Mr Bowles’s concerns were ignored. Now, in the wake of the Mid-Staffordshire hospital scandal, both Lincoln and King’s Mill are among 14 hospitals being investigated over ‘excess’ patient deaths.
Meanwhile, a report commissioned by the Say Yes To Newark campaign from independent health think-tank Dr Foster has found ‘higher than expected mortality’ among emergency case patients from the NG23 and 24 postcodes treated at Lincoln from 2008 to 2011. Doctors in other areas facing A&E closures now fear similar consequences.
The trusts which run the hospitals where Newark patients are treated refused to comment yesterday. They referred questions to Amanda Sullivan, chief officer of the Newark and Sherwood Clinical Commissioning Group – the GP-led body now responsible for buying hospital services in the area.
She claimed the increase in mortality was caused by Newark patients being ‘ill-er’ than they used to be because they have aged, while the criteria for admitting emergency patients to hospital had become stricter.
Those who might have been given beds in the past were now sent home, so that those who were admitted were ‘more likely to die’.
She admitted she had no hard data with which to back her assertions, but she insisted: ‘I don’t think the change [to Newark A&E] has worsened mortality.’
Last night a spokesman for Mr Hunt pointed out that the death rate increase began in 2010, the year before the A&E closed.
My mad night out at the local A&E
It’s where the buck stops in the health service, and the strain is showing — and Jenny McCartney (below) is surprisingly stoic about her experience
We had already been waiting in A&E for two hours, or thereabouts, and were just settling in on the plastic seats for the long haul, when we became aware of the inevitable drunk from central casting in our midst.
He was lurching towards the vending machine – one step forward, two steps back – in a manner that might have been comic had it not been so fused to the certainty of disaster.
Sure enough, the moment came. A tall, trembling, elderly lady in a wheelchair, possibly touched with dementia, was clumsily navigating the narrow walkway in front of the vending machine: something about the display attracted her, like a long, fragile moth to a lit shop window. The drunk got enmeshed with the spokes of her wheelchair and crashed in staggering slow-motion to the floor. He lay, loudly cursing her: they were both jammed there together, helpless symbols of age and addiction, two factors whose encroaching grip is slowly immobilising the NHS.
Emergency! Several weary nurses appeared, pertly snapping on blue plastic gloves, and gently bundled him into a chair of his own. Even sitting down, he still made the other patients edgy: he bounced his empty polystyrene cup hard across the room, fixing individuals with his gaze and slurring: “I’m a man… I’m going to kill you.”
A young African woman in a hijab, sitting alone, looked nervous. The drunk stumbled up and loomed purposely close over a seated Eastern European man in yellow shoes, who said quickly: “Don’t touch me, please, take your hands off me.”
It’s touching, that conciliatory little “please” that foreigners use in tense situations, as though the formal extension of politeness might act as a shield against the jagged unknowns in this new, uncharted country. There was, of course, always the natural apprehension that the drunk might suddenly vomit on you: you could see at a glance he felt bad.
Not much seemed to be moving. The middle-aged woman behind the Plexiglas window at reception said that it was a very busy night “from the back”: that’s where the ambulances and their human cargo come in.
As the hours passed, the virulent rash that had brought me in – a severe allergy to a commonly prescribed antibiotic – deepened, spread and got more painful. I couldn’t complain when I looked at the young Polish mother and daughter next to me, the mother nearly crying from the pain of her damaged ankle. The drunk asked for a Lucozade Original from the machine, which I got him: the uncharacteristic precision of his request, and the focused way he ate two Mars Bars, made me think he might be struggling to prevent a hypo: alcohol was in the mix, but diabetes might be, too. He wasn’t just time-wasting in emergency; he was a permanent emergency, trailing complicated layers of need.
The predicted wait after going on the list was “up to four hours”. Indeed, the number of people waiting in A&E for more than four hours has doubled in two years. Dr Cliff Mann, from the College of Emergency Medicine, last week said that A&E doctors were comparing their units to “a war zone” and there was a recruitment crisis because so many had bowed out.
In the out-of-hours system, however, most roads lead to A&E. I was told by the GP who saw me in the morning to call back later if the rash got much worse. But later – when it did – the GP’s surgery was, of course, closed. I called NHS 111 as instructed, and a woman took me through a brisk checklist of worst-case scenarios (“Is your skin peeling off in sheets?”). A nurse phoned me back, and was delighted to hear that I had an A&E unit nearby, to which she strongly advised a visit. The trouble is that, if anything sounds potentially serious, the people on the end of the NHS phone lines want you to go to A&E because they know the doctors there have the means to treat it decisively.
So A&E is where the buck stops most often. Watching the staff last week in London’s Whittington Hospital (a unit, unbelievably, under discussion for closure), the nurses were stoic, the doctors polite, swift and professional – with the wired energy of bright people coping with insane demands – and the security guards firm, but not aggressive. It works, thanks to them. It could work so much better. But A&E has become the sponge that absorbs the overflow of failure from all the other parts of the NHS system and beyond, whether medical or social, and it is sodden.
When I left to go home at 2am, a new, energetic drunk was being softly bundled out by the security guards, as he yelled: “It’s the No F—ing Hope Service.” A doctor had insulted his feelings, he said. The original drunk was sleeping soundly on the chair, his face briefly as peaceful as a child’s, his bottle of Lucozade Original nestling on the floor beside his feet.
Imagine Hitler as one of the Mr Men: Michael Gove slams history teaching in scathing attack on Britain’s ‘play-based’ lessons
Children are being ‘infantalised’ by teachers who encourage them to learn history through Mr Men characters and Disney films, Michael Gove said yesterday.
In a blistering attack on school teaching, the Education Secretary claimed pupils were being told to compare Hitler and his henchmen to Mr Men characters and to learn about the Middle Ages by watching Disney’s Robin Hood.
Mr Gove also criticised the debasement of English lessons, saying some schools were telling pupils to read ‘transient vampire books’ like the Twilight series instead of ‘transcendent Victorian novels’ such as Wuthering Heights and Jane Eyre.
He said teaching was being ‘crushed under the weight of play-based pedagogy which infantilises children, teachers and our culture’.
In his speech to an education conference in Brighton Mr Gove referred to a website which suggests teenagers should translate the story of Nazi Germany into a tale in the style of Roger Hargreaves’ Mr Men books.
The website, http://www.activehistory.co.uk, written by a teacher working in France, tells students they should ‘discuss which characters are the best match’. ‘The activity is a great way of rounding off or revising the rise of Hitler,’ it says, adding the exercise could also help primary pupils learn about the period.
Mr Gove said: ‘I may be unfamiliar with all of Roger Hargreaves’ work but I am not sure he ever got round to producing Mr Anti-Semitic Dictator, Mr Junker General or Mr Dutch Communist Scapegoat.’
He also referred to a 2012 issue of Primary History, produced by the Historical Association, which suggests students learn about the Middle Ages through Disney’s portrayal of King John as a cowardly lion.
‘If that proves too taxing then they are asked to organise a fashion parade or make plasticine models,’ he said.
Mr Gove’s comments come amid criticism of his proposed changes to the national curriculum from teachers and education academics.
His plans for history teaching, in particular, have come under fire from critics who claim the new focus on key dates and characters is too narrow and will impede children’s ability to think for themselves.
English lessons were also being dumbed down, Mr Gove warned, with the ‘overwhelming majority’ of GCSE pupils studying 20th century texts, rather than books from an earlier period.
Mr Gove added: ‘Under this Government…the Department for Education is setting higher expectations for every child. Because that is what parents want.’
Russell Tarr, who is responsible for the activehistory website, said: ‘The purpose of the activity is a further challenge to get them (students) to think about it in a different way and to take a complex story which they have written an in-depth essay about and turn it into something that can be used for other students.’
Farewell to hedgehogs? Numbers in Britain plummet from 36million in 1950 to just one million
It’s utter rot to attribute this to the weather. The real cause is a huge loss of hedgerow habitats in Britain as old fields are combined into large units suitable for fully mechanized farming. Any way, since there has been no warming, nothing can be attributed to it. It’s just laziness to blame everything on global warming.
The number of birds and hedgehogs in the UK has fallen dramatically as a result of climate change and extreme weather, according to a new report.
The hedgehog population has dropped from 36million in 1950 to just one million today meaning the species is facing the same rapid decline as the tiger.
During the last 50 years numbers of birds have also fallen by 44million.
Warmer winters have affected species including hedgehogs and dormice, causing them to come out of hibernation at the wrong time of year.
Populations of wildfowl birds including Berwick’s swans, which winter in the UK, have also declined, while the Peak District’s golden plover is vulnerable as warmer conditions reduce the crane flies available for chicks to feed on.
Thousands of puffins starved to death this year after the coldest March on record for 50 years.
A new report by Living with Environmental Change (LWEC) has drawn together the latest evidence to provide information on the impact of climate change on the countryside now and in the future.
Many spring events, from frog spawning to leaves appearing on trees, bird eggs hatching and flowers blossoming are happening earlier, with the danger that the life-cycles of dependent species are becoming out of sync, the ‘terrestrial biodiversity climate change impacts report card’ drawn up for the government said.
The report also revealed many dragonflies, butterflies and woodlice are moving their ranges north, while new species of insect have colonised the UK from Europe.
And mountain plants which are adapted to colder conditions are at risk from a warming climate, as warmth-loving species colonise their habitats in response to higher temperatures.
But higher winter temperatures in the past two decades have contributed to higher survival rates among some breeding bird species, the report card said.
Climate change is also responsible for new pests and diseases which are having a major impact on the UK’s trees.
Trees are being hit by dangers such as the oak processionary moth, which can cause breathing problems in people.
And the UK’s climate will become more suitable to invasive pests and diseases, including those which have an impact on a wide range of native plant species, the report said.
Dr Mike Morecroft, from Natural England, who led the development of the overview, said: ‘This report card shows strong evidence from a large number of different scientific studies that the natural world has started to respond to climate change over the last few decades.
‘It also shows the range and complexity of these changes: some species and habitats are much more sensitive than others.
‘This is a challenge for conservation and we need to adapt our approach to reduce the risks and take advantage of any opportunities.
‘It is also another wake-up call about the seriousness of tackling climate change.’
Prince Harry’s concern over ‘visual impact’ of wind farms
Prince Harry has voiced concerns about the visual impact of wind farms during his tour of America (note the usual adoring female in the background)
His comments came as he attended a reception in Denver on Friday night and his views are apparently shared by his father the Prince of Wales.
The event was hosted by Beverley Simpson, British consul general for Colorado, New Mexico and Wyoming, and among the guests was four-time Olympic gold medal winning swimmer Missy Franklin.
Susan Reilly, chief executive officer of Renewable Energy Systems Americas, said after speaking to the prince that she had to reassure Harry about the benefits of wind turbines – just as she’d done with his father.
She said: “Prince Harry said he was worried about their visual impact, I told him that I had met his father some years ago and when we discussed wind farms he shared his concerns.
“But as with Prince Charles, I pointed out that we need to strike a balance between their visual impact and the need for renewable energy for future generations.”
Harry’s comments will be seized upon by critics of wind farms who have labelled them a blot on the landscape.
The Prince’s grandfather the Duke of Edinburgh reportedly raised other concerns about the renewable energy source in 2011, labelling them totally reliant on subsidies.
When Esbjorn Wilmar, managing director of the wind farm firm Infinergy, suggested to the Duke at a reception that he should build wind turbines on royal land, he said Philip told him “they were absolutely useless, completely reliant on subsidies and an absolute disgrace”.
The Department for Energy and Climate Change hopes that offshore wind farms can provide up to 15% of electric needs by 2020.
But that will require around £8 billion of investment in transmission infrastructure such as platforms, cables and substations.
Britain’s great green bribe: Say Yes to a windfarm in your neighbourhood and get 20% off your power bill
Homeowners who live within a mile of proposed wind turbines could be offered a 20 per cent discount on their electricity bills in an attempt to reduce opposition to the green technology.
Residents could also get university fee bursaries, village halls and even free home improvements as part of attempts to allow communities to ‘see the windfarms and the windfall’.
They are part of a package of measures planned by Energy Secretary Ed Davey after he was impressed by a ‘local tariff’ scheme pioneered in Cornwall.
Those living within 1.2 miles of the Delabole wind farm now qualify for a fifth off bills – saving the average customer about £100 a year.
The Government hopes asking firms to provide community benefits will stifle planning objections for new developments, despite critics calling them ‘bribes for blight’.
‘Onshore wind has an important role to play in a diverse energy mix that is secure, low carbon and affordable,’ said Mr Davey. ‘We know that two-thirds of people support the growth of onshore wind.
‘But far too often, host communities have seen the wind farms but not the windfall. We are sensitive to the controversy around onshore wind and we want to ensure that people benefit from having wind farms sited near to them. In the next few weeks we will be publishing the results of our call for evidence, which has looked at ways to reward host communities and ensure that wider investment, employment and social benefits are felt locally.’
Millions of households could miss out on energy savings of more than £100 after ministers delayed the roll-out of so-called smart meters by more than a year.
The £11.7billion scheme to install the devices in 30million homes from next summer has been hit by technical issues.
Families are paying higher power bills in order to finance the project, but now many will have to wait longer to reap the benefits.
The technology ends estimated bills by supplying precise gas and electricity readings over the mobile phone network. Families could also be helped to cut spending on power as they see meter readings in pounds and pence.
Some estimates put average savings at £65 per year based on a 5 per cent reduction in energy usage, while others have calculated savings as high as £130 on a 10 per cent cut in domestic usage.
Tom Lyon, of uSwitch.com, called it a ‘blow’ to consumers, but Energy and Climate Change Minister Baroness Verma said the industry had to ‘get it right’ before introducing the meters.
Ministers also plan to adopt a similar approach to the development of new nuclear power stations and ‘fracking’ rigs that extract underground reserves of shale gas.Mr Davey is understood to be particularly attracted to the idea of discounted electricity bills as a way of neutralising the political backlash against developments after the expansion of onshore wind power has become a major source of tension in the coalition.
The Government has set a target of increasing the amount of power generated by onshore wind farms to 13 gigawatts by 2020, with about 3,800 turbines currently constructed. But although approvals for onshore windfarms have reached record levels and the 2020 target is on course, ministers have announced a 10 per cent cut to subsidies following a shift in policy.
Meanwhile, wind farm developers are being urged by ministers to increase the amount of community benefits to win over locals because there have been so many complaints about the impact on the landscape. Along with lower energy bills, each household close to the Delabole wind farm also gets a ‘windfall’ credit of up to £50 every year that the turbines exceed their expected performance.
Power company Good Energy now runs what was Britain’s first commercial wind farm when it opened in 1991.
Company boss Juliet Davenport said: ‘Wind power has a huge role to play in meeting the UK’s future energy needs, and we think that it’s only right that our local communities should be recognised for their contribution to tackling climate change and reducing the UK’s reliance on expensive imported fossil fuels.’
At the recently-opened Kelburn wind farm, near Largs, Scotland, the community is paid £1,600 per installed megawatt – or £44,000 a year.
Caroline Flint, shadow secretary for energy and climate change, said the community benefits scheme was a form of ‘bribery’ that would reinforce the dominance of big energy companies.
Labour favours a German model that allows local communities to own renewable energy developments and keep all the benefits.
Mass immigration has left an alarming legacy in Britain
The recent surge has put pressure on the fabric of society
It is one of the most startling examples of disconnection between rulers and ruled in recent memory. The Labour Party flung open Britain’s doors to an unprecedented wave of mass immigration – and then professed itself bewildered by the complaints from those who found themselves unable to cope with the flow of new arrivals. Even now, anger over immigration has played a powerful part in the success of Ukip in the local elections, with its candidates falling over themselves to condemn the European Union rules on freedom of movement that will soon allow Bulgarians and Romanians to join their Eastern European neighbours in the British employment market.
One of the most obvious criticisms of mass immigration, now widely if belatedly accepted, was that the greater the volume of newcomers, the harder it would prove to integrate them. The latest research from the think tank Demos bears out this fear. It shows a continuing pattern of “white flight” from areas where indigenous Britons find themselves surrounded by new minority communities. Indeed, according to the latest Census, the number of white Britons in London was some 600,000 fewer in 2011 than in 2001 – the equivalent of a city the size of Glasgow – even though the city’s total population increased by almost a million. In the areas such people have abandoned, minority communities have become more concentrated and more isolated, raising the risk – as David Goodhart, Demos’s director, delicately puts it – of their having “limited familiarity with majority cultural codes”. In the words of Trevor Phillips, the former chairman of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, this is “not good news for the cause of integration”.
It is important not to exaggerate the scale of the problem: one encouraging phenomenon is the way that members of ethnic minorities have been absorbed into communities, away from the major cities, that were previously overwhelmingly white (what Mr Phillips calls “the Ambridge effect”). But one has only to look at the ghettos of Paris to see what happens when immigrants are encouraged to build lives on the edge of the economy and society, and permitted to cluster in islands of deprivation without being absorbed into the mainstream.
Britain has an enviable track record in assimilating immigrants, yet the recent surge has put pressure not just on public services, but in some places on the fabric of society. That so many Britons should be on the move suggests that politicians have still not come to terms with the depths of the public’s disquiet, or done enough to reassure them that things will be different in future.
Britain’s “new” Girl Guides
The Girl Guides have fallen to the Guardianistas. Julie Bentley, the new chief executive, says she wants to shed the organisation’s ‘middle-class reputation’ and attract recruits from more diverse backgrounds.
She intends to demonstrate that the Guides are ‘cool’. When she was appointed, she raised eyebrows by describing Girl Guiding UK as the ‘ultimate feminist organisation’.
Miss Bentley’s plans have been shaped by her own experience. ‘I am very working class and was never a Brownie or a Guide.’ Her aim to broaden the appeal of the organisation is commendable and she has promised not to ‘throw the baby out with the bath water’.
But there are fears in more traditional quarters over how far she is prepared to go in order to make the Guides more ‘relevant’ to 21st-century Britain.
Pilot projects are already under way in some areas. This column has been sent a copy of a newsletter and mission statement from a recently established, inner-city, combined Guides and Brownies group:
‘Girlguiding UK is an equal opportunities organisation, which does not discriminate on the grounds of race, religion, ethnicity or sexual orientation. We particularly welcome applications from members of the transgendered, transsexual and intersex communities, who are currently under-represented.
However, we do discriminate on the grounds of gender, pursuant to the provisions laid out in the Positive Discrimination Act 2009.
Therefore, it has been decided to drop the name Guides. While superficially gender neutral it could include males, who as we all know are violent oppressors and potential rapists.
Guiding carries connotations of grooming, which is particularly inappropriate in light of recent revelations about a certain well-known children’s television entertainer, fortunately now deceased.
After due consideration we have also decided to drop the name Brownies, which is clearly offensive to persons of colour. Henceforth, to reflect our inclusivity, we will be known as the First Winnie Mandela Radical Young Feminists Project.
In keeping with our progressive agenda, we are scrapping uniforms, which have militaristic overtones and could be interpreted as conveying support for the illegal wars prosecuted by successive British governments in recent years.
We are sensitive to the fact that a rigid uniform policy may act as a disincentive to fashion-conscious Young Feminists, who are free to attend in appropriate clothing of their choice, including onesies.
Please note that our steering committee has decided that we will no longer be meeting in St Bartholomew’s Church Hall from this week forward. We are a multi-faith organisation and any association with the established Church may discourage members of minority religions from enrolling.
We were also disturbed to learn that the Rev Farage, the rampantly homophobic rector of St Bartholomew’s, is refusing to conduct same-sex weddings.
For the immediate future, Young Feminists are requested to assemble outside Accessorize, next to the boarded-up Woolworth’s in the Hugo Chavez Retail Experience (formerly the Arndale Centre).
This Friday we will be holding a candlelit vigil for Abu Qatada, followed by a kebab and Bacardi Breezer supper.
Some of you may have read on Facebook recently that we plan to reach out to those who previously would not have considered joining our organisation.
In keeping with this goal, we have introduced a number of new badges and activities which will help prepare Young Feminists for the challenges of the 21st century.
We will be offering a brand new Makeover badge, to include hair extensions and waxing, courtesy of our sponsors, Reinaldo’s Brazilian Beauty Spa.
Our popular Sewing category will be expanded to include instruction in how to effect a running repair to a flesh wound in the event of an unexpected and unprovoked ‘glassing’ at a rave.
To assist Young Feminists in the difficult task of life balancing, we are also introducing a Microwaving badge. This will involve heating up a ready meal of Pot Noodles in under two minutes before settling down on the sofa to watch The Great British Bake Off.
For our Survival Skills badge, we have decided to dispense with camping and orienteering. This winter, members will travel to Newcastle city centre where, dressed only in micro-skirts, thongs, skimpy vests and stilettos, they will be expected to endure eight hours outdoors in freezing temperatures, sustained only by 18 bottles of alcopops.
Extra marks will be awarded to all those who manage to complete the course without vomiting, getting arrested or ending up in casualty.
Instead of learning how to start a fire by rubbing two sticks together, Radical Young Feminists will be taught the safest way to assemble a petrol bomb in preparation for the next spontaneous demonstration against student loans and the savage cuts.
A fortnight on Friday, a technician from Computerland will be holding a seminar on how to delete compromising, intimate photos that may have inadvertently been posted on Twitter and distributed over the worldwide web by treacherous and immature so-called boyfriends.
The following week, we are honoured to announce that the world-famous MP and Oscar-winning actress Glenda Jackson will be giving us a lecture on why Mrs Thatcher wasn’t a woman.
This will be followed by a rousing rendition of our new anthem, Ding, Dong! The Witch Is Dead. This classic tune has been chosen to replace the more traditional A Guide’s Got A Face Like A Ping Pong Ball, which was deemed to be offensive to victims of acne and associated skin disorders.
We are aware a number of parents/appropriate adults have expressed concerns that traditional values may be lost as our modernisation programme progresses. Please be assured that is not the case. Our new chief executive has promised that ‘the baby will not be thrown out with the bath water’.
In keeping with this spirit, we have arranged a visit from the Senior Nursing Sister at the local maternity unit for the benefit of any single mothers who may be interested in joining the First Winnie Mandela Radical Young Feminists Project. Creche facilities will be provided.
Her first lecture is entitled: How not to throw the baby out with the bath water …..’
More multiculturalism in Britain
Strolling down the street with a smirk on his face, this is the callous teenager who killed a frail 85-year-old for her purse.
Nayed Hoque and his friend Jiervon Bartlett pounced on Paula Castle in an alleyway near her home.
Partially sighted and recovering from a stroke, the grandmother was an easy target and suffered a serious head wound when she was knocked to the ground. She died a few hours later.
Nayed Hoque was locked up for manslaughter after knocking down and killing 85-year-old blind widow Paula Castle during a street robbery
Jiervon Bartlett was locked up for manslaughter after knocking down and killing 85-year-old blind widow Paula Castle during a street robbery
The Old Bailey was told yesterday that Hoque and Bartlett, both 15, were responsible for a litany of violent crimes including robbery, kidnap and assault. They attacked another elderly person the day after mugging Mrs Castle.
They were jailed for six years yesterday – far too short a sentence according to Mrs Castle’s family. ‘They’ve repeatedly committed crimes, some of a violent nature, and they’ve targeted the vulnerable, the elderly, the disabled,’ said daughter-in-law Jane Castle.
‘They didn’t seem to have much remorse because they went out and mugged another lady the next day. The punishment doesn’t coincide with the crime.’
Mrs Castle was attacked as she walked home from the shops in Greenford, West London, last November. Witnesses saw Bartlett and Hoque loitering around the alleyway with hoods covering their faces.
Andrew Edis, prosecuting, said Mrs Castle’s emptied handbag was found discarded in a nearby garden.
Police discovered they spent the cash on a takeaway pizza and used her bank cards to buy mobile phone top-ups and a pair of Nike trainers.
After learning that Mrs Castle had died the pair robbed a second woman, Rose Mohamed, 75, of her handbag containing £120. Her bank cards were used to buy a pair of trainers and more mobile top-ups.
Both teenagers had repeatedly walked free from court despite being found guilty of serious crimes.
Bartlett had convictions for robbery, burglaries, kidnap and making threats. He attacked his 62-year-old foster father and took part in a violent burglary in which an autistic victim was robbed.
The court heard he has shown no remorse for killing Mrs Castle and stormed out of a probation meeting when he was asked to apologise to her family.
Hoque, who blamed Bartlett for killing Mrs Castle, has three convictions for assault, including two violent attacks on his own parents last year.
Both youths, from Southall, West London, admitted manslaughter shortly before they were due to go on trial.
These loving parents were branded abusers – yet the courts won’t let them clear their names: SUE REID on a chilling case that raises profound new questions about justice and Britain’s culture of secrecy
Playing in their large garden, this family look happy and content.
A pair of twins, a brother and sister aged two, reach out to cuddle their parents who, in turn, cling tightly to their youngest child, a boy of one who keeps crawling off at a fast pace towards the flower-beds.
The children are blissfully unaware that if doctors, police officers and social workers had had their way, this scene would not be taking place at all. By law, in many cases such as theirs involving family courts, it is not possible to name those involved or identify where they live.
But we can reveal that nearly two years ago, the parents were wrongly accused of the most horrific crime: shaking their children, injuring their brains and breaking their bones.
At one stage, a police officer told the family: ‘This is the worst case of child abuse I have ever come across in my 16-year career.’
During 19 months of investigations, the parents were barred from being alone with the children. Therefore the twins’ maternal grandparents (both in their late-70s) had to care for them at night while the parents slept in a separate part of the family’s home, the connecting door locked on the orders of social workers.
Astonishingly, a bell on the electric gate at the garden entrance was also disconnected by social workers. They said it was so they could make unannounced visits to check the parents were not attacking their children.
When the mother gave birth to her third child, by Caesarean, social workers claimed there was a risk that she would hurt him. They threatened to take the baby away (even though he was being breast-fed) until the mother could be supervised round the clock in her hospital bed.
But a little over two weeks ago, a High Court judge decided that the parents had not harmed their children. Mr Justice Baker said the couple were ‘besotted’ about them and should not face ‘one scintilla’ of criticism.
He refused to allow the youngsters to be taken into care by Devon Council and, in all probability, be put up for adoption.
The judge said the couple suffered from complex medical ailments which may have been inherited by the children and which made their bones and skulls fragile.
He concluded there was a ‘real possibility’ that — rather than being the result of abuse — the twin girl’s elbow was broken when her arm was pinned down by two doctors as they tried to insert a tube for blood tests.
A fracture of her brother’s rib was also ‘likely’ to have occurred at the hospital during a medical examination.
As the mother says now: ‘It has been a nightmare. So many mistakes were made. We have lived for months under this massive terror that council social workers would take our children away. I was made to feel an evil woman by social workers. They treated me like a liar. We were accused of being child abusers by the police.
‘Now we learn that some of our children’s injuries may have been caused at the hospital where doctors were accusing us.’
The coverup: Protecting the REAL guilty ones
It is, indeed, a disturbing story. But as this family get on with their life, there is another worrying aspect to this case.
It concerns the judge’s decision that the family cannot be identified and that their whereabouts must be kept secret until the children are grown up — even though they have done nothing wrong.
The ruling, by Mr Justice Baker at the High Court in Exeter, means that if this family allow the media to use their real names, they will be in contempt of court and risk being sent to prison.
They are frightened even to speak about their ordeal to neighbours or friends because in doing so they could identify themselves and the children as having been participants in the family court case.
These gagging orders have become normal in such family court cases where parents are eventually found innocent of any wrongdoing. Last week, Bill Bache, the family’s lawyer and an expert on family courts, said: ‘This ruling impinges on this family’s freedom of speech. This is very troubling.’
Mr Justice Baker’s ruling also means that only the one doctor actually named in his final judgment, when he cleared the parents, can be identified publicly.
As a frightening result, the identities of the social workers, the police officers and nearly all the hospital medics who provoked this family’s nightmare are now hidden behind a cloak of secrecy.
So why, one might ask, is this couple not allowed to say who they are — and shout publicly from the rooftops that they are innocent?