Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Disillusioned doctors say Labour decade of reform has failed NHS

Most doctors believe that Labour has failed to reform the NHS and that funding by taxation alone will not improve the quality of care. An online poll of more than 3,000 doctors carried out for The Times offers the most striking picture yet of the level of disillusionment within the profession. Most say that the billions of pounds injected into the service since 2002 have not been well spent and that services have not improved.

Faith in Labour's ability to put it right is rock-bottom. Nearly twice as many doctors would trust the NHS with David Cameron, the Opposition Leader, than with Gordon Brown, though a larger number trust neither of them.

The poll, carried out by doctors.net, Britain's busiest medical website, shows a profession disillusioned with central control, angered by the growth of bureaucracy, and deeply sceptical of initiatives such as the 20 billion pound IT system. Even more worrying for Labour, more than two fifths of the 3,092 doctors who responded are young, having graduated since 2000. More than half of respondents (56 per cent) said that there had been no improvement in the NHS since 2002, when the Government increased funding. Only 27 per cent thought there had been. Almost three quarters (72 per cent) did not believe that the extra money had been well spent, while 11 per cent said that it had. Similar views were held on the quality of care: 72 per cent said that there had been no improvement; 15 per cent said that there had been.

In a surprisingly strong rejection of the Government's belief that taxation is the only way to pay for the NHS, 79 per cent of respondents doubted that the highest standards expected of the NHS could be sustained through taxation alone after 2008, when the huge annual increases in funding will drop off.

Neil Bacon, who launched doctors.net in 1999, was not surprised by the results of the survey. "Doctors support the NHS, but they have a great deal of concern that the underlying problems are not being addressed," he said. Mark Porter, deputy chairman of the British Medical Association's consultants' committee, said: "The results of this survey are disturbing and give a snapshot view of how demoralised and frustrated some doctors are feeling. "It is of major concern that a majority of respondents to this survey are saying that they do not believe the NHS has improved since 2002 and that they do not think the increase in NHS expenditure has been well spent. It is also worrying that so many of them say they plan to retire early. "The survey also reveals a deep anxiety among doctors about what will happen after 2008, when the rate of increased funding is due to end. "It is tragic that the Government has used so much of the increased expenditure on wasteful initiatives like independent sector treatment centres and PFI. The private sector has certainly done well out of the increased funding."

Andrew Haldenby, of the think-tank Reform, which wants funding of the NHS to be opened up, said that he was heartened by the degree of support doctors had shown for the idea. "The real issue is whether the tax model can work. This poll requires all the politicians to rethink their positions," he said. "This poll suggests very strongly that at least part of the medical community has been taking notice, and it is particularly interesting that so many younger doctors have contributed."


Contaminated blood inquiry

An independent public inquiry is to be held into the supply to haemophiliacs of contaminated NHS blood The Labour peer Lord Archer of Sandwell, a former Solicitor-General, is to conduct the inquiry after a campaign by Lord Morris of Manchester, president of the Haemophilia Society and a former Minister for the Disabled, who said that 1,757 haemophilia patients who were exposed to HIV and/or hepatitis C-contaminated NHS blood and blood products had died since being infected. "Many more are now terminally ill," the peer claimed.

Lord Morris said that, of 4,670 such patients exposed to hepatitis C, 1,243 were also exposed to HIV and that, notwithstanding improvements in treatments, only 2,552 patients with hepatitis C and 361 with HIV were still alive. The situation has been described by Professor Lord Winston as "the worst treatment disaster in the history of the NHS".


Braving the wrath of latte man

Australian writer, Rebecca Weisser says a British Leftist author has faced some unpalatable facts about the Left:

Author and journalist Nick Cohen should be a darling of the Left. He regularly contributes to the New Statesman and The Observer in Britain and made a name for himself as a longstanding critic from the Left attacking Tony Blair's triumph of style over substance. But something happened to Cohen between the 2001 invasion of Afghanistan, which he vehemently opposed, and the anti-war rallies of 2003. Cohen's leftist coterie had airbrushed from their memories everything they knew about the brutality of Saddam Hussein's regime and the principles of solidarity with the oppressed.

Cohen thought that once Saddam had been toppled, the liberal-Left would back Iraqis building a democracy and denounce the slaughter of innocent Iraqi civilians by "insurgents" hell-bent on building either a Baathist state or a "godly global empire to repress the rights of democrats, the independent-minded, women and homosexuals". But around the world among the liberal-Left the consensus was that there was only one target with blood on his hands - the "world's No.1 war criminal, George W. Bush". "Eventually," Cohen writes, "I grew tired of waiting for a change that was never going to come and resolved to find out what had happened to a Left whose benevolence I had taken for granted."

The result is an incisive book, published last month in Britain and this month in Australia, What's Left? How Liberals Lost Their Way, which denounces as moral bankruptcy the tendency of some in the liberal-Left to end up as apologists for fascist governments and movements. Cohen's ambition is to show how the Left of the 20th century ended up supporting the far Right of the 21st century.

Inspired by US writer Paul Berman's Terror and Liberalism, Cohen ranges over the history of the Left during the past century, examining the relationship between the Left and fascism. Cohen finds the roots of this behaviour in the Nazi-Soviet pact, when Marxists openly supported fascism and declared democracy the enemy. He surveys the defence by some in the Left of Slobodan Milosevic and his ethnic cleansing in Bosnia and Kosovo, Noam Chomsky's defence of Pol Pot, Michel Foucault's support for the Islamic Revolution in Iran, tacit support for the perpetrators of 9/11, the Madrid bombing, London's 7/7 and the attribution of ultimate responsibility to the US.

The Australian Left has not been immune to this topsy-turvy logic, which pursues Betrand Russell's fallacy of the superior virtue of the oppressed to ridiculous conclusions. Clive Hamilton, executive director of the Australia Institute, was one of the few on the Left even to admit that it was in the interests of the world that democracy should succeed in Iraq but his caveat was that the US should be humiliated in the process. "The bloody nose that the US has received in Iraq has severely dented the confidence of the neo-cons and that can only be good for the world," he wrote for Foreign Policy in Focus, a US left-wing think-tank, in July 2005.

The Australian Left's impassioned campaigns on behalf of David Hicks and "Jihad Jack" Thomas are part of the impulse to apologise for those who by their own admission support the violent imposition of Islamic fundamentalism but decry loud and long the slow and imperfect functioning of the US judicial and legislative processes in the unfamiliar area of the international laws of war.

Cohen, like Christopher Hitchens, Melanie Phillips and David Aaronovitch, stands in the proud English tradition of writers such as George Orwell who came from the Left and dared risk its wrath criticising it. He is a signatory of the Euston Manifesto, a document created last year by those on the Left disillusioned by its drift to support the far Right. It set out the principles which the Left should stand for - democracy, freedom, equality and internationalism, and those which it should condemn - tyranny, terrorism, anti-Americanism, racism, anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism.

Cohen worried it was so bland that it would sink without a trace. In fact, it launched a tidal wave of support and dissent. "It was a symptom of liberal life that a statement of the obvious produced by obscure men and women in a London pub could cause such a fuss." In denouncing the failings of the Left, Cohen made an unwanted discovery - its anti-Semitism.

A headline on The Guardian website, "David Aaronovitch and Nick Cohen are enough to make a good man anti-Semitic", was challenged by an enraged reader who protested against the inherent bigotry and demanded the headline be rewritten as, "David Aaronovitch and Nick Cohen are enough to make a good man, or woman, anti-Semitic."

Source. There is an excerpt from Nick Cohen's book here

Museum DNA test proposal

Fake Australian Aborigines (some with blond hair) who roll in affirmative action privileges fear exposure

The Natural History Museum in London wants to use the remains of Tasmanian Aborigines to develop a simple DNA test for Aboriginal ancestry. A report obtained by The Weekend Australian says research into the DNA of the remains it holds could provide a key to creating such a test. "DNA analysis of the remains and subsequent comparisons with (the) Tasmanian community may allow the establishment of Aboriginal descent in the absence of documentation," it says, provoking condemnation from Aboriginal groups. The report cites the development of such DNA testing as a key "benefit" of allowing the NHM to hold on to the remains.

Australian researchers said such DNA testing could be done, but suggested it would only demonstrate Aboriginal descent "on the balance of probabilities". They also expressed concern some right-wing commentators might demand DNA vetting of those claiming government-funded Aboriginal cultural and welfare programs. The number of Australians identifying themselves as Aboriginal in the census has risen sharply from 265,459 in 1991 to 410,000 in 2001.

Indigenous Affairs Minister Mal Brough said he was not interested in the DNA test. "There is only one issue that concerns us and that is respecting the remains of indigenous people and rightful custodians of those remains," Mr Brough said. "The distress caused to indigenous people in Tasmania far outweighs any potential scientific gains."


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