Government orders GPs to take charge of out of hours care as row escalates
Family doctors need to accept that “the buck stops with them” and rediscover the idea of taking responsibility for their patients, the Health Secretary has said.
In a speech which is set to intensify bitter rows with GPs, who accused Jeremy Hunt of “spouting rubbish”, he said the concept of the family doctor had been lost, after being “fatally undermined” by changes introduced by Labour.
Mr Hunt said that in future, every GP would have to take responsibility for care given to their patients when surgeries are shut, and to “sign off” contracts provided by agencies.
“We have allowed ourselves to lose sight of the concept of the family doctor – the sense that GPs are there to be a champion for their patients rather than simply a gateway to the system,” he said.
Mr Hunt said too many patients were now turning up at A&E departments because they could not get care from their family doctor.
The Health Secretary said those in need of care too often encountered “GP surgeries where it is impossible to get an appointment the next day; same day appointments but only if you call at 8am sharp and are lucky getting through; too often long waits on the phone to get through, sometimes at premium rate numbers which were supposed to be banned in 2009”.
In the speech to the King’s Fund, a think tank, Mr Hunt said changes introduced by Labour in 2004, allowing GPs to abandon responsibility for their patients at evenings at weekends, had “fatally undermined” the personal link between doctor and patient.
The Health Secretary said: “Patients in hospitals are under the care of accountable clinicians. The consultant responsible doesn’t do everything him or herself. But if something goes wrong, you know where the buck stops. But when a vulnerable older patient needing follow-up and ongoing support leaves hospital, who is the accountable clinician? As a member of the public, I would like that to be my GP.”
His comments were made hours after the British Medical Association accused Mr Hunt of “spouting rubbish”.
In a speech to GPs in London, Dr Laurence Buckman, chairman of the BMA’s GP committee, said the causes of growing pressures on casualty units were complex, and could not be blamed on the 2004 contract, which allowed GPs to abandon responsibility for out of hours care.
He received a standing ovation after saying doctors were prepared to work constructively to address problems in out of hours care, but not to “shore up a system which had been rendered unsafe by unwise political meddling”.
Dr Buckman said ministers had made a mess of introducing NHS 111, the non-emergency advice line, and were passing the blame to GPs.
The Royal College of General Practitioners said GP practices were being starved of funding, with a £200 million reduction in funds expected in the next three years.
British Conservatives plan for network of military-style state schools
A network of schools run by former soldiers is being planned by the Government after ministers approved the opening of Britain’s first military-style academy.
Michael Gove, the Education Secretary, is proposing the establishment of a chain of state-funded “free schools” which boast an Armed Forces ethos in line with similar plans in the United States.
The disclosure came as the Department for Education granted approval for one military-style school in Oldham – the first of its kind in the UK.
Under plans, The Phoenix Free School will open from September 2014 staffed by former members of the Armed Forces and led by a serving Army captain.
It will have a zero tolerance approach to bad behaviour and aim to boost sporting competitiveness among pupils, it is claimed.
Approval for the school – among 102 new free school projects announced on Wednesday – comes despite a decision by officials to reject the application last summer.
It is believed that other schools with an Armed Forces ethos could follow after the DfE posted a research paper on its website urging new providers to set up military-style schools.
The report says backers should consider opening a cadet unit on site or bringing former soldiers into lessons as teachers through the “Troops to Teachers” retraining scheme.
Schools are also being encouraged to use programmes such as SkillForce, which works with young people who are in danger of becoming Neets – not in education, employment or training.
Labour has already set out proposals for a generation of “Service Schools” staffed by former members of the Armed Forces to raise education standards.
The DfE document says: “The Government is interested in exploring how academies and free schools can use their freedoms to foster a military ethos and raise standards.
“We are also looking for parties interested in opening a new school with a military ethos.”
Another DfE paper, published at the same time, adds: “Our ambition is for pupils to use the benefits of a military ethos, such as self-discipline and teamwork, to achieve an excellent education which will help them shape their own futures.
“Promoting military ethos in schools helps foster confidence, self-discipline and self-esteem whilst developing teamwork and leadership skills.”
A number of “military schools” have already opened in the US as part of the established state education system.
Under plans, the Phoenix school will open in Oldham in September 2014 as the first such venture in the UK. It will take children aged 11-to-18.
Its main backers include Captain AK Burki, a member of the Army’s Counterinsurgency Centre, who recently served in Afghanistan, and Tom Burkard, professor of education policy at Derby University and a former instructor in the Royal Pioneer Corps.
The school says it will provide a full curriculum and adopt a zero-tolerance approach to behaviour.
“Our teachers will embody the Army’s core values of moral courage, self-discipline, respect for others, integrity, and loyalty,” the school’s website says. “They will all be trained in the military ‘Methods of Instruction’ syllabus – and they will all know their jobs.”
Free schools are new, state-funded institutions run free of local authority control. New schools are being set up across England led by parents, teachers and charitable organisations.
Through the Troops to Teachers programme, which started in the United States 19 years ago, ex-military personnel are encouraged to retrain as teachers.
Between March 2011 and October 15 last year, 254 service leavers applied for initial teacher training (ITT). Of these, 132 were accepted.
But the small number of former servicemen making it into the classroom has led to claims from Labour that the programme is failing.
Ain’t multiculturalism grand?
A British soldier has been butchered on a busy London street by two Islamist terrorists, one of whom proclaimed afterwards: “An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.”
In the first terrorist murder on the British mainland since the 7/7 suicide bombings of 2005, the men attempted to behead the soldier, hacking at him like a “piece of meat” in front of dozens of witnesses, before both were shot by police who took around 20 minutes to arrive.
After the killing, one of the men, believed to be a British-born Muslim convert, spoke calmly into a witness’s video phone.
Speaking with a London accent, holding a knife and a meat cleaver and with his hands dripping with blood, he said: “We swear by almighty Allah we will never stop fighting you until you leave us alone. Your people will never be safe. The only reason we have done this is because Muslims are dying by British soldiers every day.
“We must fight them as they fight us. An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. I apologise that women had to witness this today but in our lands our women have to see the same. You people will never be safe. Remove your government, they don’t care about you. Do you think David Cameron is going to get caught in the street when we start busting our guns? Do you think your politicians are going to die?
“No, it’s going to be the average guy like you, and your children. So get rid of them. Tell them to bring our troops back so we, so you can all live in peace.”
Witnesses said that the men used a car to run over the soldier just yards from the Royal Artillery Barracks in Woolwich, south-east London, before setting about him with knives and a meat cleaver as if they were “trying to remove organs”. One unconfirmed report suggested that he had been beheaded.
Passers-by said they thought at first that the attackers were trying to help the man, who was wearing a Help for Heroes T-shirt, and only realised they were killing him when they got closer.
As they attacked the soldier, one of the men shouted “Allahu akbar”, or God is Great, according to the BBC, while another witness said they appeared to pray next to the body as if the solder was a “sacrifice”.
Their victim, thought to be aged around 20, had reportedly been on duty at an Army recruitment office in central London and was on his way back to the barracks when he was murdered at 2.20pm.
It emerged that passers-by went to the soldier’s aid. One of the killers ordered that only women could tend to the body, not men.
There were also questions over why it took around 20 minutes for armed police to arrive on the scene, during which time the killers calmly walked up and down the road, carrying their bloodied knives and a pistol, while members of the public confronted them.
When police did arrive, both gunmen tried to rush at the police and were shot, reportedly by a female officer.
On Wednesday night they were under armed guard in separate hospitals. Their British accents suggested that they were “home-grown” terrorists and security sources said they did not believe anyone else was involved in the incident.
David Cameron described the attack, which had chilling echoes of a plot to behead a soldier foiled in Birmingham in 2007, as “absolutely sickening”, but said that Britain will “never buckle” in the face of terrorism. This morning he will chair a meeting of the Government’s Cobra emergency briefing committee to be updated on developments.
Speaking in Paris, where he had been meeting François Hollande, the French president, he said: “We have suffered these attacks before. We have always beat them back. We have done that through a combination of vigilance, of security, of security information, good policing.
“But above all, the way we have beaten them back is showing an absolutely indomitable British spirit that we will not be cowed, we will never buckle under these attacks. The terrorists will never win because they can never beat the values we hold dear, the belief in freedom, in democracy, in free speech, in our British values, Western values. They are never going to defeat those. That is how we will stand up to these people, whoever they are, however many there are of them, and that is how we will win.”
He added that “every aspect” of security would be reviewed. After a Cobra meeting last night, chaired by Theresa May, the Home Secretary, security was tightened at all London barracks.
Boris Johnson, the Mayor of London who attended the meeting, said: “I know that Londoners have been through terrorism before and this city has huge resilience.
“What we also have is the best, the most professional security services and the best police in the world to protect us and they are now going to get to the bottom of exactly what’s happened.”
The Queen announced that she would go ahead with a planned visit to the King’s Troop Royal Horse Artillery at Woolwich Barracks next week.
The murder appeared to have been planned to ensure maximum publicity, with the killers urging witnesses to take their picture “as if they wanted to be on TV”. One witness, identified only as James, said he and his partner watched in horror as they realised what they were seeing. He shouted at the men to stop, only for one of them to pull out a gun and threaten to shoot him.
After driving his car further up the road, he stopped and called the police, telling them to bring armed units.
He said: “These two guys are chopping this guy to pieces, literally hacking at something like it’s a bit of meat. These two guys were crazed, they were just animals. They then dragged the poor guy from the pavement and dumped his body in the middle of the road.
“They were standing there with the knives in their hand, waving the gun about. There were police at the end of the road but there were no police in the vicinity of the attackers. I think they were proud of what they were doing.”
The Muslim Council of Britain condemned the killing as a “truly barbaric” act with “no basis in Islam”.
A spokesman said: “We call on all our communities, Muslim and non-Muslim, to come together in solidarity to ensure the forces of hatred do not prevail.”
Nearly all children born to cohabiting couples this year will ‘see parents split by the time they are 16’
Nearly nine out of ten babies born to co-habiting parents this year will have seen their family break up by the time they reach the age of 16, says a study.
Half of all children born this year will not be living with both natural parents when they reach their mid-teens, and almost all those who suffer family breakdown will be the children of unmarried parents, added the report.
The study, based on figures from the national census and large-scale academic surveys, extrapolates from current trends and calculates that just 9 per cent of babies born to cohabiting couples today will still have their parents living together by the time they are 16.
The report adds that the declining popularity of marriage and the rise of co-habitation will damage the lives of increasing numbers of children.
The figures were produced by researcher Harry Benson, of the Marriage Foundation think tank, who said: ‘The report provides solid evidence that married parents are more stable than unmarried parents.
‘The contrast between married and unmarried parents who remain intact by the time their children reach their teenage years demonstrates that marital status plays a crucial role in family breakdown.
‘With family breakdown costing an estimated £46billion a year – more than the entire defence budget – in addition to the immeasurable social damage, it is clearly in the interest of the Government and the taxpayer to work to counter this devastating trend.’
The study by the think tank, which is headed by High Court family division judge Sir Paul Coleridge, was based on findings from the census of 2001 and recent results from Understanding Society, a government-backed survey which charts the lives of people in 40,000 homes.
The report said that in 2001, four out of ten teenagers aged 15 were not living with both parents, and among the parents of 15-year-olds who stayed together, 97 per cent were married.
Understanding Society, a ‘longitudinal’ survey which asks questions of the same group each year, found that 45 per cent of teenagers aged between 13 and 15 are not living with both parents. It also found that of the parents who were still together, 93 per cent were married.
Co-habiting couples who were both registered as their children’s parents accounted for a quarter of family breakdown in 2001, but nearly half in 2012.
The analysis comes as the popularity of marriage is at an historic low. In 2010, there were 241,100 weddings in England and Wales compared to more than 400,000 a year in the early 1970s.
In 2009, the number of weddings was 232,443 – the lowest figure since Queen Victoria was on the throne.
Last month, David Cameron pledged to recognise marriage in the tax system before the next general election in 2015.
Mr Benson said: ‘Despite the evidence behind the stability of marriage, the Government seems fixed on airbrushing marriage from family policy papers.
Whilst government policy disregards the crucial role marriage plays in helping couples stay together, the epidemic of family breakdown will roll on.
‘Almost all couples who remain intact whilst bringing up their children are married. The most family-friendly Government of all time – as promised in 2010 – needs to recognise this hard evidence and do something about it.’
The evidence that blows apart Mr Cameron’s claim that gay marriage will strengthen families
A passionate rallying call, it was supposed to encapsulate David Cameron’s political creed, boldly blending the progressive and the traditional.
‘Conservatives believe in the ties that bind us; that society is strong when we make vows to each other,’ the Prime Minister triumphantly declared at the Tory party conference in October 2011.
‘So I don’t support gay marriage in spite of being a Conservative. I support it because I am a Conservative.’
Speaking yesterday on Radio 4’s Today programme, after the Commons voted on Monday to allow gay marriage in England and Wales, Mr Cameron said: ‘There will be young boys in schools today who are gay, who are worried about being bullied, who are worried about what society thinks of them, who can see that the highest Parliament in the land has said that their love is worth the same as anyone else’s love and that we believe in equality.
‘And I think they’ll stand that bit taller today and I’m proud of the fact that has happened.’
Over the past three years, the legalisation of same-sex marriage has become one of the flagship policies of Mr Cameron’s Conservative-led Government, even though it was never mentioned in his party’s manifesto at the 2010 general election.
For the PM’s inner circle of self-styled modernisers, this proposal is seen as a key instrument of change, a powerful agent that can ‘detoxify’ the Tory brand. By embracing gay marriage, the party will be able to shed its ‘nasty’ image and present itself as an inclusive, socially advanced force in British politics.
The policy is also portrayed by its backers as a vehicle for reinvigorating the institution of marriage itself by promoting those values of commitment, loyalty, stability and personal responsibility that are considered vital to the creation of a strong society.
According to this argument, the process of opening marriage to everyone, regardless of their sexual orientation, will be a catalyst for the revival of marriage generally.
For example, Culture Minister Maria Miller said in February, when putting forward the legislation to enshrine same-sex unions: ‘What marriage offers us is a lifelong partner to share our journey, a loving, stable relationship to strengthen us and a mutual support throughout our lives. I believe this is something that should be embraced by more couples.’
In the same vein, Mr Cameron’s favourite think-tank, Policy Exchange, proclaimed same-sex marriage will ‘encourage strong and stable families, and tackle the social breakdown that leads to poverty’.
But in the real world beyond excitable political rhetoric, we should be very wary of claims that a far-reaching change in family policy will help to strengthen our social fabric.
Indeed, it is one of the classic tactics of radical reformers to assert that a ‘progressive’ proposal is actually a means to achieving a traditionalist end. This is exactly what happened over the reform of the divorce laws in 1969/70.
Advocates argued that by making divorce much easier, the new law would do no more than help to end a few ‘dead’ unions that were beyond saving. By allowing this, it was argued, the institution of marriage would be left much stronger and more respected.
As we all know, it has hardly worked out like that. Just the opposite has happened.
Divorce rates have rocketed, marriage rates have plummeted and tens of thousands of children have been robbed of security.
A similarly disastrous outcome arose from another progressive policy — providing state support for lone parenthood outside marriage. Again, this was done with the best of intentions: to remove the stigma on single mothers and to provide for children whose fathers had abandoned them.
But in practice it has offered incentives to help the creation of fatherless families and the remorseless expansion of the benefits system.
The same applies to same-sex marriage today. The upbeat language of the Tory modernisers is based on nothing more than self-delusion and wishful thinking.
Look at what has happened in those countries that have already made same-sex marriage legal. In not one case has there been any indication of a wider revival in marriage. Indeed, in most countries its decline has merely accelerated.
In Scandinavia, where hostility to the two-parent family is central to the ruling political orthodoxy, the widening of the legal definition of marriage has done nothing to stop the institution decaying.
The same applies in Spain, where the Catholic Church still retains significant social influence and state policy has not been so antagonistic to traditional family life. Gay marriage was first sanctioned in 2005, and since then the decline in heterosexual marriage rates has been precipitous.
Likewise in Holland, where the traditional Protestant culture has fought against the increasingly predominant tolerant anarchy so beloved of liberal campaigners.
Since the Dutch legalised same-sex marriage in 2001, the concept of long-term commitment among heterosexuals has been evaporating — not least because of the parallel introduction of ‘registered partnership’ or ‘cohabitation agreements’ for heterosexuals.
Forty per cent of first babies are now born to unmarried mothers in Holland, a doubling of the rate since 2000.
This is tragic proof of the misguided belief that same-sex marriage could help to reinforce the value of traditional marriage. And, in any case, this belief has always been absurd and is wholly undermined by the evidence.
For the truth is that the drive for gay wedlock is precisely the same instinct that wants to destroy traditional marriage. It is part of the pernicious notion of social equality.
It is particularly revealing, therefore, that some of the most outspoken campaigners for same-sex unions, such as the Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg, do not seem to believe in the importance of traditional marriage at all.
Notoriously, he once derided plans to support marriage through the tax system as like ‘taking the 1950s model of suit-wearing, breadwinning dad and aproned, home- making mother and trying to preserve it in aspic’.
Perversely, despite the hysteria and emotional bullying of some advocates of gay marriage, there does not even seem to be any great wish among gays or lesbians in any nation for official recognition of their relationships.
According to surveys from Holland, Belgium and Canada, only two to six per cent of homosexuals get married. Similarly, in Norway and Sweden it has been estimated that just one to five per cent of the gay population enter a civil partnership or get married.
Furthermore, research shows that long-term commitment among homosexual couples seems even more elusive than in heterosexual ones, undermining the fashionable belief among policy-makers that gay married couples can serve as role models for the restoration of marriage.
In Sweden, for example, male unions are 50 per cent more likely to end in divorce than heterosexual marriages, and the rate is even higher for lesbian couples.
The truth is that marriage between two loving parents of opposite sexes has for centuries been the bedrock of Western society, providing the best environment for raising children. But the radicals, with all their self-righteous importance, think they know better.
So they seek to denigrate and trivialise the institution, making weddings little more than something couples might like to do in the first flush of excitement at their new relationship.
Marriage becomes an excuse for a party, a bit of fun while it lasts, rather than a lifelong commitment based on the creation of the next generation.
This trivialising instinct is further proved by reformers’ demands for ever wider definitions of wedlock or civil unions.
From Brazil to Canada, there are even calls for civil unions to encompass three or more partners.
Here in Britain, the indefatigable campaigner Peter Tatchell has urged that civil contracts should accommodate those who are in close but non-sexual relationships, such as relatives, friends, even brothers and sisters.
He says: ‘Under my Civil Commitment Pact, partners could pick and mix from a menu of rights and responsibilities.’
So this is what the campaign for same-sex marriage has led to: a complete collapse in the power and meaning of traditional wedlock.
In the midst of an epidemic of fatherless families and spiralling welfare bills, we are all paying a terrible price for this dogmatic, posturing nonsense. And self-delusion from the Tories does not help.
Boris’s sexual shenanigans and a landmark victory over our creeping culture of Stalinist secrecy
Many of our senior judges apparently dislike the Press and increasingly insist on the rights of privacy for public figures. So it was with some astonishment that I read a story on Tuesday morning that suggested the opposite may be the case.
The Court of Appeal has ruled that the public do have the right to know about the philandering past of Boris Johnson, Mayor of London. In so doing, it confirmed the judgment of a High Court judge, Mrs Justice Nicola Davies, last July.
Note that the Court of Appeal is a very august institution. No less a figure than the Master of the Rolls, Lord Dyson, delivered the judgment, supported by two senior judges. This was a significant ruling.
The reason for my amazement is that I had assumed the higher judiciary shared the view of certain high-minded newspaper editors, the pressure group Hacked Off and most politicians that what a public figure does in private is entirely his or her own business, provided it is legal. Not so, said Lord Dyson and his colleagues.
The case arose because Boris Johnson, who is married, fathered a child during an extra-marital affair. The mother, Helen Macintyre, was living with someone at the time. The child’s family took action against this newspaper, which broke the story of her daughter’s paternity.
Lord Dyson stated that ‘the core information in this story, namely that the father had an adulterous relationship with the mother, deceiving both his wife and the mother’s partner, and that the claimant, born about nine months later, was likely to be the father’s child, was a public interest matter, which the electorate was entitled to know when considering his fitness for high public office’.
The Master of the Rolls added: ‘It is fanciful to expect the public to forget the fact that a man who is said to be the baby’s father, and who is a major public figure, had fathered a child after a brief adulterous affair (not for the first time).’ This was a reference to an earlier extra-marital fling.
What is interesting about this ruling is that there was no imputation of hypocrisy on Boris’s part.
Unlike some politicians, he has not presented himself as a family man or proclaimed his sexual virtue.
The former Lib Dem Cabinet minister Chris Huhne, by contrast, exhibited his close family in his 2010 election hand-outs while having an adulterous affair.
Boris is not a hypocrite. He doesn’t tell people to do one thing and then do another. By the way, I should mention that he wasn’t involved in this legal action. He wasn’t trying to suppress information about what had happened.
The point is that, even though Boris was not guilty of hypocrisy, in their Lordships’ view the public are entitled to know about his shenanigans because he is a leading politician seeking office.
Of course, the revelations may not injure him. Boris seems to be indulged by the electorate, as he is by those close to him. In assessing his fitness to be Mayor of London, some voters may even take the view ‘Good on yer, Boris’, though I suspect he may be assessed more critically when he sets his cap at No 10. Others may agree with Mrs Justice Davies, who accepted that Boris had shown ‘recklessness’ in conducting extra-marital affairs, which called into question his fitness for public office.
What matters is that people have a right to know so that they can make their own judgments. The Court of Appeal has unambiguously embraced a principle that was once widely accepted, but has in recent years come under threat as some judges have developed a privacy law under Article Eight of the European Convention on Human Rights.
A huge array of high-profile figures, including footballers and members of the super-rich, have been granted injunctions preventing the media from revealing their indiscretions. The Leveson inquiry into Press ethics has helped foster a climate of greater secrecy.
At times it has seemed that we were following the example of France, whose political class has often escaped media scrutiny as a result of draconian privacy laws, as well as a mood of deference on the part of the Press.
French newspapers for many years chose to ignore that Francois Mitterrand, president from 1981 to 1995, had a secret mistress by whom he had fathered a daughter. Journalists hid this fact until 1994.
The French Press did not write about the brutal and possibly illegal sexual antics (including an allegation of rape) of Dominique Strauss-Kahn, a leading socialist politician and head of the International Monetary Fund.
If French experience is any guide, sexual misdemeanours and financial corruption not infrequently go hand in hand. Disregard the one and you may miss the other.
The Court of Appeal’s judgment appears to put a brake on our gradual adoption of French habits.
Of course, we don’t know what it would have said if Boris were a billionaire businessman or an England footballer rather than a leading politician. The extent of the public’s right to know in respect of public figures has not been precisely defined.
Nonetheless, the ruling is a boost to an open society. Incidentally, two senior judges also spoke in a spirit of openness yesterday when lifting a gagging order preventing the media from naming the triple child killer David McGreavy. According to their judgment: ‘It is a cornerstone of the rule of law that public justice be publicly reported.’
If only the police were as enlightened. A new-fangled body called the College of Policing has published guidelines that will force every police officer in England or Wales to declare any friendship outside the workplace with a journalist.
This sounds more than a little bit Stalinist. It will discourage police from having entirely innocent relationships with journalists in the course of which they might pass on information in the public interest about corruption or other misconduct. This measure will most certainly not promote a more open society.
Meanwhile, police forces across the country have unilaterally decided to keep arrests of suspects secret. Even the Director of Public Prosecutions, Keir Starmer, has expressed his disquiet, pointing out that naming a suspect can sometimes encourage further victims to come forward, as happened in the case of the disgraced broadcaster Stuart Hall.
If police are able to arrest suspects in secret, there is nothing to prevent them from bringing in any number of people for questioning, and then releasing them on police bail without the public being any the wiser. Is that the kind of society most of us want to live in?
In the wake of the Leveson inquiry, police leaders have demonstrated just how opposed to an open society many of them are. Now it emerges that the Metropolitan Police withheld a possibly highly significant document from the inquiry, claiming ‘public interest immunity’. What a row there would have been if a newspaper had kept back evidence!
The police evidently relish secrecy, but they’re not the only ones. Look at the Tories’ spine-chilling plans for secret courts to operate in terrorist cases, which, to their credit, the Lib Dems are resisting.
All of which makes me lift my hat to the Master of the Rolls and his colleagues for recognising that in a free and open society, the public do have a right to know.